Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs
Washington, DC
July 7, 2010

Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to have everyone here for our second Tribal Consultation. As a Representative of the United States and on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, I would like to thank the tribal leaders and representatives from across the Continent for making the journey to Washington, D.C. for such an important consultation; and I would like to thank the Representatives present from various U.S. Government agencies. I would especially like to thank Department of State Legal Advisor Harold Koh, White House Associate Director for the Office of Public Engagement Jodi Gillette, and White House Senior Policy Advisor Kimberly Teehee for your leadership in today’s meeting.

Thank you all for joining us here at the Department of State for this important conversation today regarding the U.S. Government review of the United States’ position on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Today is an excellent platform, for exchange, learning, and strategic debate around this review process. At the Tribal Leader’s conference, during the Universal Periodic Review sessions, and in various letters and e-mails, you as tribal leaders have conveyed that you wanted us to take a look at the Declaration -- and we are hoping to move that process forward today. We have this opportunity to provide a framework for addressing indigenous issues through the Declaration and we are eager to determine whether the United States is now in a position to lend its support.

As illustrated through U.S. support of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues over the past year, the Administration is committed to a consultation process in which the views of tribal leaders are heard. As you know, Secretary Clinton, as the leading U.S. diplomat, has made engagement concerning this issue a priority in our work and has directed the Department of State to review its own consultations process, and we ask all of you for input on how we can be most successful.

We value the input we received two weeks ago at the NCAI Conference in Rapid City, South Dakota, and we are very pleased to see so many Tribal Representatives here today. Our first Tribal Consultation was very productive, and we encourage everyone in this room and on the Conference Call to voice your concerns and opinions during this forum again today.

Currently, the review of the Declaration is being conducted by all relevant USG agencies. A number of them are present today. We have representatives from the White House; the U.S. Mission to the UN; the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; and the Departments of: the Interior, Labor, Energy, Health and Human Services, Justice, and Defense, to name a few. In addition to those present today, all the agencies who are involved in the review will be apprised of the substance of your comments.

Because it is so early in the review process, the U.S. Government does not yet hold a position. However, in order for the process to be as robust, comprehensive, and meaningful as possible, we need you to provide comments to our agencies on any specific concerns, including legal ramifications that could occur on the tribal , state, or local level. Our objective is that we should have any U.S. decision in support of the U.N. Declaration be fully informed by your feedback.

I would now like to extend a special thank you and introduction to Mr. Harold Koh, the Senior Legal Advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.