WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Navajo Nation President-Elect Ben Shelly and Vice President-Elect Rex Lee Jim have expressed their appreciation for the support of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which gained President Barack Obama's endorsement Dec. 16 in Washington, D.C.
The U.N. declaration proclaims the rights of Indigenous peoples to survive as distinct peoples, nations, cultures and societies. The U.S. was the last of the four U.N. countries that originally opposed the declaration to reverse course and support it.
"I strongly hope we'll begin as the Navajo Nation to engage as a government," Jim said. "Most Native people engage as a non-government entity when dealing with issues such as this."
Jim said Obama's endorsement of the measure "allows the Navajo Nation to engage in human rights issues as a government, at that level - internationally."
Shelly stated that this was a momentous day for Indigenous people worldwide.
"This is an important step for the United States to take," Shelly said. "This decision demonstrates the greatness of our country and a renewed underwriting to those Indigenous societies that are also entitled to their cultures, religions and governments."
"I want to thank President Obama for the willingness to work with Native people and engage us as a government," Shelly added.
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