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Teehee Addresses U.N. Permanent Forum

Statement focuses on administration’s achievements

New York – Kimberly Teehee, White House Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs, spoke at the opening session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on May 16.

Teehee, a member of the Cherokee Nation, thanked the forum for the invitation, noting that this was the second year she had appeared at the annual meeting of indigenous delegations from around the world.

“Recognizing the important role of the U.N. Permanent Forum, the United States chose last year’s session as the venue in which to announce that the United States would review its position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Teehee said. “As I suspect you know, the result of that review was President Obama’s announcement on December 16, 2010, at the White House Tribal Nations Conference, that the United States lends its support to the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Teehee quoted the comment Obama made when he announced the U.S. “support” of the Declaration: “What matters far more than words – what matters far more than any resolution or declaration – are actions to match those words.” Using Obama’s quote as a springboard, Teehee then reviewed the administration’s actions and efforts to improve education for indigenous students, to close the gaps in health care, to improve public safety on tribal lands and address the astronomical rates of violence against indigenous women by signing the Tribal Law and Order Act, and investments in energy and communications infrastructure in Indian country.

Because the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its implementation was to be discussed later during the week, Teehee said, “I won’t address it further now.”