Indigenous Rights Advocates Question Keith Harper Nomination

Rob Capriccioso

“Anyone who is placed in an international position with the purpose of defending and assuring indigenous rights cannot ignore the horrific tribal, civil, and human rights violations occurring against thousands of American Indian people at the hands of their own tribal governments,” Cory says, adding that she expects by now that Harper should have released a statement on whether he believes tribal disenrollment is appropriate under any circumstances—yet she and others searching for an opinion from him have not seen one to date.

Monette believes it is “quite fair” for people like Cory to be critical of Harper’s lack of response on the disenrollment issue. It is especially important, Monette says, because Harper and his firm have lobbied in the recent past for at least one tribe that has conducted controversial disenrollments, although Monette has offered no proof that Harper or his firm played a role in any disenrollment proceedings.

Beyond disenrollment issues, Monette says Harper’s resume appears “rather thin” for him to have been selected to serve as a human rights ambassador. “Keith seems to have been chosen because he was a strong bundler for the president, not because he was the best Indian person for this position,” he says. “And powerful Natives are supporting him because he has done favors for them.”

Monette’s critique aligns with recent widespread criticism of the Obama administration and its nominations of several people who seem to have little familiarity with topics involving the positions for which they have been nominated. President Barack Obama’s nominee to Argentina Noah Bryson Mamet, for instance, recently admitted that he had never been to the country. George Tsunis, a hotel businessman, knew little about Norway when asked questions about the country during his nomination hearing in January, despite being chosen by the president to become an ambassador there.

Like Harper, many of the nominees who have garnered the most scrutiny from both Congress and the press have been top bundlers for Obama’s presidential campaigns. “Nominating allies and top fundraisers to plum diplomatic posts isn’t a phenomenon Obama invented, but the lack of preparation on the part of his nominees is becoming the source of unflattering headlines,” ABC News reported in a February 7 article that highlighted some of “the most cringe-worthy moments from Obama’s nominees.”

Monette says that Harper can point to his time commitment involving Cobell as a reason for not having addressed more indigenous human rights topics, “but if he is going to be held up as the first Native American to do this job, one would assume he would be a leader in this field.”

The Cobell settlement also helped Monette to personally understand much about Harper’s character when faced by his critics. Having disagreed with each other on various parameters of the settlement, Monette claims the disagreement became physical in 2010 when Harper pushed him in a hallway at the D.C. District Court. “I brought one of the old class-action gurus to the Cobell courtroom one day as I was getting ready to testify about my problems with the settlement,” he alleges. “We were walking together down the hallway at the court, and Keith Harper gets in front of us and stops. And Keith shoved me—and I mean hard. He did it on purpose to try to provoke. It really, really threw me because it was just before I was scheduled to testify.”

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hickoryground's picture
Submitted by hickoryground on
Keith Harper and Kilpatrick Stockton are still profiting from the desecration of the Muscogee Creek burials at Hickory Ground. How did that human rights violation get overlooked in this story?

leeanntallbear's picture
Submitted by leeanntallbear on
When I think of the word "advocate" I don't think about Keith Harper. Names that come to mind among the still living, are Clyde Bellecourt, Suzanne Harjo, Sonny Skyhawk, Winona LaDuke, Eddie Benton Banai - people who actually "changed the nature of the debate" as one of my old friends would say. I am sure all of you have other names that come quickly to mind: people who worked for change in their communities and have a record of not perpetuating or exploiting the status quo.

curtj's picture
Submitted by curtj on
Same old Same old. The non Indigenous will groom whoever they want to get ready for a important position, in order to bribe them. You saw in in the lower 48 in the last 3 or so centuries when the illegal alien immigrants wanted resources and lands for free or real cheap, like cheap jewelry. Look to the Indigenous Peoples Forum of the United Nations, that guy in charge was selected by the colonial governments who continue to rob other countries of their resources and lands with the end result of terrorist attacks against them or their chief supporter, America. It is sick and sad that Indigenous people are so easily bribed like the Washington politicians. They work against their own peoples interests for a few pieces of silver, like the white mans judas and jesus. You saw it when the US government used to recruit Apache trackers to help herd Apaches onto reservations and to exile them to other states in order to rip them from their lands. What kind of respect do you give these Quislings who are bribed to value their momentary riches in order to remove the Indigenous people from their resources and lands, resulting in the obscene drug and alcohol addictions with its violence and resulting suicides.

100IndigenousAmerican's picture
Submitted by 100IndigenousAm... on
To advocate Keith Harper as as a human rights ambassador to the United Nations is asinine and twisted thinking that lacks critical thought. Being slightly brown and having some DNA blood content is not qualifications for real defense of the HUMAN RIGHTS of Indigenous Americans throughout the Americas. Especially someone coming out of the ruins of the Cobell settlement where the rightful receiverships received a paltry amount of what was due to them and the Lawyers drove away with truckloads of cash. Lobbyist, lawyers and politicians dealing with "real" Indians from superiority vantage point are of the same material. They will never look at the "keepers of the Mother Earth" as equals. Keith Harper is a bad choice for the indigenous people, and he is a good choice only for the "business model" and not the "creating restructuring politics for the salvation of original Americans" using the patterns of our traditions using global thinking. I speak my mind as Vietnam Vet and as a proud 100% Dine' from Dine' (navaho) bekayah.