OAS Commemorates Inter-American Week for Indigenous Peoples

OAS Marks Inter-American Week for Indigenous Peoples.

Remarks by
Bradley A. Freden
Interim Permanent Representative of the United States
OAS Permanent Council
August 11, 2021

Thank you, Chair. I would like to begin by thanking the Assistant Secretary General and his staff for all of their hard work pulling this week event together.  We know this it is never easy, especially as we continue to combat a global pandemic.   

The United States is proud to join other delegations today in honoring the diverse Indigenous groups throughout the Americas and seeking to address the historic and ongoing challenges they face.  We thank the speakers for their expertise and thoughtful presentations.  

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

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

Specifically, the United States is proud to be partnering globally with governments, NGOs and civil society to work 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. 

Domestically, the United States government is closely coordinating with U.S. indigenous communities in our COVID-19 response efforts to address the needs of Native American and Alaskan tribal groups. 

To aid this goal, in July, the Biden Administration gave $100 million dollars of COVID-19 rescue funds specifically to American Indigenous communities. 

Mr. Chairman, 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 of the non-COVID related challenges facing our Indigenous communities. Combatting racism and discrimination is something the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to address. These are issues that every OAS Member State — including the United States — faces to a greater or lesser extent, and it is a challenge we must all work together to overcome. 

Eliminating discrimination and inequality is not only the morally correct thing to do.  It is necessary for sustainable economic growth, prosperity, and environmental protection throughout the region.  

Economic 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.  

We are pleased that the OAS moved forward with this week of recognition and awareness-raising, despite all the challenges we face from the global pandemic, to recognize the achievements of Indigenous Peoples and acknowledge the challenges they face.  

I assure you that it is a priority of the Biden-Harris 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, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In order to adhere to his commitments, President Biden is ensuring the completion of a report by all agencies in the United States government on the actions they will take to implement  the President’s Executive Order 13175, related to the rights of indigenous peoples. 

This order establishes a mandate where all governmental departments and agencies must engage in regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal officials in the development of Federal policies that have Tribal equities. 

President Biden is also reintroducing regular meetings of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, which has not met consistently since 2016. We hope that this consistent dialogue will reinforce the Administration’s support for Tribal sovereignty and self-governance and will help to fulfil the Federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations. 

I would like to finish by stating that, as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, it is more important than ever that all Member States of the OAS do all they can to protect the sovereignty and rights of their Indigenous communities. 

Thank you, Chair.