Remarks at a Third Committee General Discussion on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Jonathan Shrier
U.S. Deputy Representative to the Economic and Social Council
New York, New York
October 9, 2023


Mr. Chair, for far too long, Indigenous peoples have been simply informed of decisions that directly affect them and their communities instead of being consulted as partners. Governments must be respectful and listen to Indigenous voices to truly understand their diverse historical and cultural perspectives. We must understand the structural barriers that continue to exclude Indigenous peoples from fully and meaningfully participating in society and government.

This is why the United States firmly supports enhancing the participation of Indigenous peoples at the United Nations.

The United States recognizes that Tribal sovereign Nations and Native Hawaiians have their own solutions to their own challenges. They also have solutions to the shared challenges facing our country. We are working to place Indigenous leaders and their solutions at the center of decision-making.

The United States acknowledges the tragic and unjust parts of our history, including the displacement of Native Americans from their traditional lands and the use of boarding schools to forcibly remove and assimilate Native children. This history continues to contribute to the inequalities and intergenerational trauma faced by Indigenous communities in the present day.

Only when countries critically examine their mistaken and damaging policies can they begin to heal and truly prosper. In 2021, the United States announced an investigation into the loss of human life and lasting consequences of residential Indian boarding schools formerly operated or overseen by the U.S. Government. This year, in consultation with Tribal Nations and at the request of Indigenous communities, we began an oral history project for survivors to collect and tell the stories of impacted Indigenous persons.

Around the world, Indigenous women and girls continue to face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination linked to tribe, race, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, and socioeconomic status. We appreciate that the UN World Conference on Indigenous peoples outcome document recognizes this issue as one of four main priorities.

With Canada and Mexico, the United States established the Trilateral Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls in 2016, which convened for the fifth time last month in Canada, along with Indigenous women leaders from all three countries.

The United States is addressing violence against American Indians and Alaska Natives, especially women and girls, through precedent-setting policies that promote tribal self-determination. Last year, the United States established the Not Invisible Act Commission, an advisory committee composed of law enforcement, tribal leaders, Federal partners, service providers, family members of missing and murdered individuals, and – most important – survivors.

This Commission will make recommendations next month to the United States Congress and Federal agencies on how to improve intergovernmental coordination; establish best practices for state, tribal, and Federal law enforcement; bolster resources for survivors and victims’ families; and combat the crisis of missing or murdered Indigenous persons.

Last year, the United States reauthorized and amended the Violence Against Women Act to include, among other things, the expanded recognition of the inherent authority of tribes to exercise special tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Native perpetrators of sexual violence, child violence, stalking, and sex trafficking on tribal lands. It also authorized a pilot project to enhance access to safety for survivors in Alaska Native villages.

We have a collective responsibility to foster a more inclusive global society in which Indigenous peoples can reach their full potential, share their traditional knowledge, and impart their invaluable perspectives on how to confront issues facing our planet.

This inclusive and consultative approach will help create a safer and more prosperous world for all. Thank you.