The UN is to investigate the plight of US Native Americans for first time. The first such mission in its history.
The human rights inquiry led by James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples, is scheduled to begin on Monday.In 2010 the US endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Ingenous Peoples.
Many of the country's estimated 2.7 million Native Americans live in federally recognised tribal areas which are plagued with unemployment, alcoholism, high suicide rates, incest and other social problems.
The UN mission is potentially contentious, with some US conservatives likely to object to international interference in domestic matters. Since being appointed as rapporteur in 2008, Anaya has focused on natives of Central and South America.
Apart from social issues, US Native Americans are involved in near continuous disputes over sovereignty and land rights. Although they were given power over large areas, most of it in the west, their rights are repeatedly challenged by state governments.This is particularly interesting as the indigenous people in South Dakotas Great Plains continue to fight the intrusion of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Anaya will visit Washington DC, Arizona, Alaska, Oregon, Oklahoma and South Dakota, and will conclude his trip with a press conference on 4 May. He will present his findings to the next session of the UN human rights council.
Anaya's past record shows a deep sympathy with Native Americans' plight. In one development dispute, he told the council that the desecration of sacred sites was an urgent human rights issue.