Gabe Galanda has published “Deploying the U.N. Indigenous Rights Declaration in the Courts of the Conqueror” in Indian Country Today. He explains:
On December 16, 2010, with much pomp and circumstance before American tribal leaders, President Obama endorsed the Declaration, explaining to the tribal leaders who had gathered in Washington, D.C.:
“The aspirations it affirms—including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples—are one we must always seek to fulfill…. I want to be clear: What matters far more than words—what matters far more than any resolution or declaration—are actions to match those words.”
Yet in action, the departments, agencies, and officials within the Obama Administration do not actually live up to the words contained in the Declaration. To the contrary, federal actions too frequently contradict the promises made by the United States to American Indian indigenous people in the Declaration. As United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples S. James Anaya has noted, it is one thing for governments to “incorporate the norms concerning indigenous peoples; it is quite another thing for the norms to take effect in the actual lives of people.”
After explaining how the Declaration might hold in United States courts, Gabe concludes: "Despite federal contention otherwise, the Declaration is not toothless. Indian country should deploy the Declaration and its embodiment of customary international law in domestic courts when necessary to defend against federal behavior that threatens American indigenous ways of life."
Gabriel "Gabe" Galanda is a partner at Galanda Broadman PLLC, of Seattle, an American Indian owned law firm. He is an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Covelo, California. Gabe represents tribes and individual Indians in all matters of controversy with federal, state or local governments. He can be reached at 206.691.3631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.