Since 1995, the United Nations has designated August 9th as the annual International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The day marks an occasion to celebrate, raise awareness about, and help to protect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples throughout the world.
The Project for the Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the United States is a joint project between the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the University of Colorado Law School. The Project aims to raise awareness of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Indian Country and to provide information and support for implementation efforts. The Project, together with the UCLA School of Law, is currently working to develop a UN Declaration Tribal Implementation Toolkit.
In honor of Indigenous Peoples Day, the Project took the opportunity to sit down and talk with Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma President Walter Echo-Hawk. Considered an expert on the human rights of indigenous peoples, Echo-Hawk in his 2013 book, In the Light of Justice, closely examines the United Nations Declaration and how it can be applied in the United States to advance the rights of Native peoples. Earlier this week, CU Law student and NARF summer law clerk Taylor Schad had a virtual interview with President Echo-Hawk.
In addition to his recent election as president of the Pawnee Nation, Walter Echo-Hawk is an attorney, activist, international speaker, and author. From 1973-2008, he worked as an attorney at NARF, where he represented Indian tribes on important legal issues such as treaty rights, water rights, religious freedom, prisoner rights, and repatriation rights, and was instrumental in the passage of landmark laws such as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990) and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments (1994). We congratulate President Echo-Hawk on his recent election and thank him for taking the time to sit down with us, as well as for his untiring work on behalf of Native peoples.