I am encouraged that the State Department will have the insight of a Native person to guide them in decisions regarding indigenous peoples.
Today the U.S. Senate confirmed Cherokee Nation citizen Keith Harper as the country’s ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Nominated by President Barack Obama in 2013, Harper will be one of the few Native Americans to serve as an ambassador for the United States.
I was an intern with the Department of State at U.S. Embassy – Pretoria, South Africa. Many of my colleagues had not worked with a Native person. It was incredible to share my life experiences of growing up in the Cherokee Nation with students at the University of Pretoria, South Africans from multiple tribal affiliations and the U.S. Charge’ d’ Affaires (we didn’t have an acting Ambassador while I was there).
There is a serious need to incorporate the shared experience of indigenous peoples across nation-state borders. While these experiences are not uniform, they have elements that are distinct and critical to human rights issues. With this ambassadorial post – and a Native person at the helm – I believe we are better situated to both advance our position on human rights and improve our communities. Congratulations to Ambassador Harper, President Obama and the international indigenous communities.
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Stephanie Conduff was a 2013 Procopio Native American Intern and is currently a law clerk for Procopio and is finalizing her law degree at the University of Oklahoma College of Law.
Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at firstname.lastname@example.org and 619.515.3277.