Cherokee Citizen Keith Harper Named US Representative to UN Human Rights Council

Keith Harper was confirmed by Senate to become the  United States Ambassador to the United Nation Human Rights Council.

Keith Harper was confirmed by Senate to become the United States Ambassador to the United Nation Human Rights Council.

Keith Harper becomes the first member of a federally-recognized American Indian tribe to serve at the U.S. Ambassador level.

WASHINGTON – Cherokee Nation citizen Keith Harper was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a 52 to 42 vote on Tuesday, June 3, 2014, to become the United States United States Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

With Tuesday’s confirmation, Harper becomes the first member of a federally-recognized American Indian tribe to serve at the U.S. Ambassador level.

Praise for the Harper’s confirmation came quickly on Tuesday.

The National Congress of American Indians issued the following statement after the confirmation:

“Ambassador Harper is an attorney who has dedicated his career to the injustices facing Native peoples. Issues surrounding Indigenous peoples have emerged prominently on the agenda of the United Nations, and Ambassador Harper will be a valuable resource to the Human Rights Council. We look forward to working with him to ensure that the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is fully implemented, and as tribal nations prepare for the upcoming high-level plenary meeting known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples taking place this September.”

Tex “Red Tipped Arrow” Hall, Chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara Nation of North Dakota, Chairman of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association, and past President of the National Congress of American Indians, released the following statement on the US Senate confirmation:

“For countless generations our warriors and leaders have fought for the human rights and traditions of our own people. That is just as true today, even though our struggle takes place on a worldwide stage, and even though we have been relegated to the sidelines of the UN.”

“For as long as I can remember, we have never been able to count on the United States to actively promote or defend of our rights on an international level. That all began to change when President Obama reversed the United States’ opposition to UNDRIP.  And now, for the first time in history, the President’s nomination and Senate confirmation, of Keith Harper as Ambassador means that we will have someone representing the United States who can fight for our tribal treaty rights and our human rights at the international level.  This is an unprecedented opportunity for Indian country and the United States to work together on an global scale to advance our human rights through UNDRIP and other international human rights instruments”

“Keith’s confirmation is of great accomplishment for all of Indian Country,”  Navajo Ben President Shelly said.  “We congratulate Keith and his family on his confirmation and thank the Senate for taking action on this important role,” he added.

Senator Jon Tester (D- Mont.), Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs applauded Harper’s appointment:

“Keith Harper has had an exemplary career as a lawyer and a judge.  I’m pleased that my colleagues have voted to appoint another historic first for Indian country.  As a longtime advocate for the civil rights of Native Americans, Keith will be a great Ambassador for our country.

Harper is a partner at the law firm of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, where he is chair of the Native American Practice Group.

He currently serves as a member on President Obama’s Commission on White House Fellowships. Prior to his current role, Harper was senior staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund from 1995 to 2006.

From 2007 to 2008, he served as a Supreme Court Justice on the Supreme Court of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, and from 2001 to 2007, he served as an Appellate Justice on the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court.

From 1998 to 2001, he was an adjunct professor at the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, and from 1999 to 2001, he was a Professorial Lecturer at the American University Washington College of Law.

Harper was a law clerk to Lawrence W. Pierce on the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

He began his career as a litigation associate with Davis, Polk & Wardwell in New York. Harper received a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and a J.D. from New York University School of Law.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and slain in the Benghazi terrorist attack, was an enrolled member of the Chinook Tribe of Washington state, a non-acknowledged federal American Indian tribe.

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