In 2007, following decades of advocacy by indigenous peoples, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Declaration).
Today’s challenge is to realize the promises of the Declaration in the lives of indigenous peoples. In 2018, the University of Colorado Law School (Colorado Law) and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) committed to working on this challenge in the context of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian rights. Together they launched the joint “Project to Implement the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the U.S.” by co-sponsoring a Conference at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder, Colorado, on March 15–16, 2019. Over two days, attorneys, scholars, tribal leaders, activists, students, and others discussed challenges in federal Indian law and the potential role of the Declaration in advocacy efforts. Collectively, this cohort considered advocacy opportunities in language rights, business and human rights, religious freedoms, cultural rights, Indian child welfare, climate change and environmental policy, and technology, media and communications.
The Project has multiple aims, including to foster awareness of the Declaration in Indian Country and to work closely with indigenous leaders on implementation efforts. The Project partners with non-governmental organizations, universities, and organizations in furtherance of indigenous peoples’ human rights, while advancing education about the Declaration. It also fosters relationships among attorneys, tribal members, and others interested in the broader effort. While this is primarily a legal advocacy project, its participants include both lawyers and nonlawyers, some of whom are tribal leaders, traditional cultural practitioners, and members of tribal communities. Indigenous peoples’ lifeways, values, and knowledge always guide this Project.
Implementation Project Resources
The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues held its Twenty-First Session (UNPFII21), April 25 – May 6, 2022, with the theme “Indigenous peoples, business, autonomy and the human rights principles of due diligence including free, prior and informed consent.” The Project held several online events, about the Forum, implementing the Declaration in the United States, and the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.
In 2020, the Implementation Project published its Tribal Implementation Toolkit, in partnership with UCLA School of Law. This Toolkit is intended to assist tribal leaders, lawyers, and advocates in implementing the UN-Declaration.
In addition to the digital version, which features artwork by Joni Sarah White, we also offer a text-only version more suitable for screen readers or other accessibility aids.
The Project’s first publication was the 2019 Conference Report on Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, available in the CU Law Review.
The report grew out of the March 2019 conference, “Call to Action in Indian Country,” where the Implementation Project was launched by CU-Law and NARF. The conference featured workshops on cultural rights, environmental advocacy, business and entrepreneurship, Indian child welfare, technology and communications, Indigenous languages, and how to address Indian Law changes in the United States using an international human rights framework. (Watch the recorded conference).
Project News & Upcoming Events
Oklahoma Workshops Support Tribal Implementation of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples