OAS Celebrates 5th Inter-American Week for Indigenous Peoples

Remarks by
Giovanni Snidle
Alternate Representative of the United States
OAS Permanent Council
August 9, 2022

Thank you, Chair. I would like to begin by thanking the Assistant Secretary General and his staff for all their hard work bringing us together to recognize the central role of indigenous women in preserving and transmitting traditional knowledge. We know organizing such an event is never easy, especially as we continue to combat a global pandemic.

The United States is proud to join other delegations today in honoring great indigenous groups throughout the Americas, highlighting the ongoing challenges they continue to face, and highlight the strength and leadership of indigenous women in particular. We thank the speakers for their thoughtful and profound presentations.

Mr. Chairman, the past year has been a difficult one – one in which the citizens throughout our hemisphere have faced new and significant challenges. However, we are deeply conscious of the unique inter-sectional challenges Indigenous Communities face during the pandemic, which has exacerbated persisting problems.

The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to advancing the protection, support, and prosperity of tribal nations throughout the Americas.

Specifically, in his first week in office, President Biden issued a memorandum reaffirming our Nation’s solemn trust and treaty obligations to American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Nations. Further, the United States is proud to be partnering globally with governments, NGOs and civil society to ensure that Indigenous Peoples and all marginalized groups have access to vaccines, testing and treatment as we continue to deal with the effects of COVID-19, especially within the Americas, which continues to be one of the most affected regions in the world.

We are also cognizant of the inter-sectional impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic. COVID-19 is impacting every nation.  It is imperative that, during such times, governments take active measures to protect all members of the community – especially vulnerable populations and members of at-risk ethnic, racial, or religious groups. 

Chair, my delegation is also well aware that indigenous women are essential leaders, contributing to the strength, resilience, and growth of their communities in spite of the non-COVID related challenges facing our indigenous communities in the hemisphere. Combatting racism and discrimination is something the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to address. These are issues that every OAS Member State faces, including the United States — and a challenge we can all work together to overcome.

Recognizing and empowering indigenous communities is not only morally-just but also essential to the health and prosperity of all our communities. Recognition and opportunity must be inclusive — enhancing opportunities for all people while building respect, trust, and understanding across race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

I assure you that it is a priority of the Biden administration to respect tribal sovereignty and self-governance particularly at this point in time where our indigenous communities have been disproportionally affected by crises in our country relating to health, the economy, racial justice and climate change.

In support of these commitments, President Biden is taking action to address violence against indigenous communities and missing and murdered indigenous women especially. In November 2021, President Biden signed the executive order 14053, titled “Improving Public Safety and Criminal Justice for Native Americans and Addressing the Crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous People. Discussing the order at the White House Tribal Nations Summit, President Biden declared this to be “a matter of dignity” which is “the foundation of our nation-to-nation partnership.”

I would like to finish by stating that, as we continue to emerge out of the pandemic, it is more important than ever that all Member States of the OAS are doing all that they can to protect the sovereignty and rights of their Indigenous tribal groups, and support indigenous women as they continue the work of preserving and transmitting traditional knowledge.

Thank you, Chair.