Courtesy United Nations
International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples will be celebrated on August 10 at the United Nations. The day falls on Sunday August 9.

Health and Well-Being Rule at U.N. on International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples


Indigenous Peoples the world over suffer higher rates of disease, incarceration and poverty than overall populations in the 90 countries in which they live, and on August 9, International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the United Nations is putting a focus on health and well-being.

“On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, I call on the international community to ensure that they are not left behind,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement. “To create a better, more equitable future, let us commit to do more to improve the health and well-being of indigenous peoples.”

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief George Tiger noted these common issues as he declared International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples for his nation as well. In Oklahoma, for instance, Natives are the second-largest so-called minority group, comprising 7.5 percent of the state’s population, he said. Land grabs and other tactics are still in play. 

“In the United States the world’s indigenous peoples land and water rights are increasingly being violated even where land and water rights are recognized by treaty or prior agreements,” Tiger declared in a declaration issued to commemorate the day. “Corporations and states in the name of “development and economic growth” are grabbing our lands, violating sacred places, destroying our natural habitats.”

Tiger called for worldwide unity of Indigenous Peoples.

“We at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation believe that any hope of justice, maintaining our rights, our self-determination, our sovereignty, depends on our ability to unify, collaborate and partner with our indigenous relatives from around the world,” Tiger said in a statement. “Along with our allies, we continue to call upon Member States of the U.N. to take concrete actions to respect, recognize and protect our collective rights as affirmed by the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

The U.N. will attempt to do just that with events on Monday August 10 designed to draw attention to indigenous issues. Among other activities the U.N. will release a new report, State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Volume II, to highlight the major challenges confronting Natives when it comes to accessing and utilizing health care services, the U.N. said in a statement. From a lack of facilities in communities, to language barriers, to a lack of understanding of indigenous culture and traditional practices, Natives face many hurdles to engaging with the health care system, the U.N. noted.

The report will pinpoint “numerous examples of health gaps between indigenous peoples and non-indigenous populations living in the same countries, including significantly shorter life expectancy, elevated prevalence of infectious diseases and higher rates of malnutrition and child mortality,” the U.N. statement said. “Indigenous peoples are also more likely to suffer from substance abuse and depression and other mental disorders than their non-indigenous counterparts.”

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