Bolivian Indigenous President to Meet with North American Native American Leaders

The President of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ama, an Aymara Indian elected to his country's highest office in December 2005, will meet with American Indian Leaders on Monday, September 28, 2006. The President, along with his country's Foreign Minister, David Choquehuanca, (also Aymara), is in New York City for the opening of this year's General Assembly at the United Nations.

The meeting is being hosted by the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues of the United Nations and the American Indian Law Alliance, an Indigenous peoples' non-governmental organization working with offices in New York City. Mr. Thomas Kruse, one of the President Morales's assistants stated that the meeting was set up at the request of Mr. Morales and is meant to be a substantive exchange between Indigenous leaders from the North and the South to discuss the issues shared by Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere. Kent Lebsock, the Executive Director of the American Indian Law Alliance, added the election of President Morales is an historic event for all Indian peoples. For him to honor us by meeting with our traditional Native American leaders is another step in the undeniable presence of Indigenous peoples in international advocacy, especially human

President Morales' office had specifically requested a small meeting in order to ensure that substantive, frank discussions could occur.

Participants look forward to this being the first of more meetings designed to improve the dialogue between the Bolivian government and American Indian nations and First Nations of Canada. Issues to be discussed include lands, resources and the revitalization of traditional Indigenous processes in government, conservation and environmental management.

The meeting comes at the beginning of the General Assembly session.

It is expected that the United Nations will take up the issue of the Declaration on the Rights of the World's Indigenous Peoples. For over 20 years, Indigenous peoples from around the world have worked with human rights experts to develop this international human rights instrument. Finally, having made it's way to the General Assembly, it is being supported by many United Nations' member states and Indigenous nations, organizations and communities around the world. However it is also facing strong opposition from the United States, Canada, and Australia. The meeting between Morales and North American Indian leaders will also focus on ensuring the passage of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Haudenosaunee, Lakota and Cree nations will participate along with urban Native Americans from New York City. The opening ceremony will be by Sid Hill, Tadodaho of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations, Iroquois Confederacy) from Onondaga in upstate New York. Oren Lyons, also from Onondaga; Alex White Plume, tribal chairman and a traditional leader of the Oglala Sioux Nation; along with Willie Littlechild and Rick Lightning (Ermineskin Cree Nation), John Bull (Louis Bull Cree Nation), and Raymond Cutknife (Samson Cree Nation), will also participate.

Local leadership includes Tonya Gonnella Frichner a citizen of the Onondaga Nation and the meeting's moderator, Roberto Borrero, Taino, and Esmeralda Brown, a long time United Nations advocate for Indigenous rights.

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