Indigenous Rights Advocates Question Keith Harper Nomination

Rob Capriccioso

Harper has not responded to requests for comment on this allegation, and Page, the spokesman for Kilpatrick Stockton, declined to comment. Paul Kamenar, a longtime class-action lawyer based in D.C. who was with Monette at the time of the incident, says he was not in sight range to see exactly what happened. “I’m not saying it didn’t happen,” he says. “But Richard is a very honest and forthright person, so I don’t have any reason to doubt him.”

Beyond the Monette incident, Kamenar says the Senate should investigate Harper and the Cobell legal team’s request for much higher lawyers’ fees than Congress approved for in the settlement. “I thought the $100 million that Congress allowed for lawyers’ fees was excessive, he says. "Then the lawyers requested $223 million from the court. It was outrageous.” A battle among Cobell lawyers over fees still continues at the D.C. District Court, with Kilpatrick Stockton lawyers saying that the Native American Rights Fund does not deserve the $8.1 million it has requested for work it performed during the case.

Marilyn Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes organization, is another indigenous advocate who has questions about Harper. In all the years that citizens with Cherokee and African-American ancestry – widely known as Cherokee Freedmen – have been asking the Cherokee Nation to enroll them, she has never heard Harper, a citizen of the tribe, take a position.

“I am not aware of Keith Harper writing any newspaper columns, or giving any interviews regarding the Cherokee Freedmen disenrollment issues, or on any tribal enrollment issues, including disenrollment, blood quantum, or moratoriums against registration of additional tribal members,” Vann says.

“I believe that the Cherokee Freedmen issue is very important as it deals with treaty rights of a tribal minority who were oppressed due to their ethnicity,” Vann says, noting that the U.N. previously took a position against disenrollment of South African citizens due to their ethnicity, and she hopes that Harper would support such a policy in the U.S. and other countries.

“I certainly believe that a prospective appointee to a human rights U.N. position should be questioned by U.S. officials who must approve an appointment as to [his] positions on legal and human rights issues of Indian country,” Vann adds.

Harper’s silence to date on tribal disenrollment and Cherokee Freedmen issues appears reminiscent of the silence Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) blasted him for during his first confirmation hearing in September 2013, which centered on a letter drafted and distributed by the Cobell legal counsel during the appeals period of the Cobell settlement.

The letter included the names and addresses of four Native Americans – Kimberly Craven, Carol Good Bear, Mary Lee Johns, and Charles Colombe – all of whom appealed the settlement; it encouraged Cobell class members to directly contact the appellants, and it indicated they were holding up payments by exercising their legal right to an appeal. Several Indian country legal experts said the letter, which was distributed by e-mail to a large listserv and posted on the Cobell lawyers’ website from January 2010 through September 2013, amounted to harassment – and harassment did indeed result from the letter – but at the time Harper did not and would not say anything against it when queried by the press.

RELATED: A Public Letter From the Cobell Lawyers Prompts Ethics and Harassment Concerns

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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.