Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 18, 2023
I want to thank all of you for joining us here tonight. Along with Secretary Haaland and our friends from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Mexico, we are extraordinarily proud to host this reception to honor the twenty-second session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. I want to start by acknowledging the ancestral homelands of the Lenape Hoking on which we have gathered. Tonight, we are honored by the presence of indigenous leaders from around the world.
Our sincere hope is that this reception provides an opportunity to build stronger connections between our governments and indigenous communities. And, just as important, this gathering is an opportunity for all of you, the world’s indigenous leaders, to forge stronger cross-regional ties, and to discuss shared challenges and solutions.
I cannot speak for every country in this room. But as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, I can speak on behalf of the United States when I say that the disparities and inequalities our indigenous people face today is a direct result of some of the ugliest parts of our history.
As a descendant of a slave, I know all too well how the sins of our country’s past contribute to our present. How that hurt, that pain, and that suffering – both spiritual and material – gets handed down, generation after generation. But for the same reason, I also know that we can learn from our mistakes, that we can rectify the wrongs, so that we don’t repeat them. That we can make people’s lives better. The story of how I came to represent America to the world – or how Secretary Haaland, a proud member of the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico, came to lead the very department that once terrorized Native Americans – is proof that progress is possible.
And that is why the next two weeks are so important. We have so many issues on which we must make progress. The climate crisis. The health of our peoples. The need for economic development. The protection of indigenous women and girls, and the promotion of indigenous languages and culture.
These are important to each of us. And they are also important to all of us. Because indigenous issues are global issues. And they require coordinated and sustained global solutions. To reach these solutions, indigenous communities must not only be at the table – you should be at the head of the table. So let us please continue this important conversation tonight, over the next two weeks of the permanent forum, and every single day after that.
With that, it is my true honor to introduce my friend, our U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland.