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Katsenhaienton Lazare, a Bear Clan Mohawk of the Haudenosaunee, welcomed delegates to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on April 25 with a 30 minute speech in Mohawk language.

This story is published as part of the Global Indigenous Affairs Desk, an Indigenous-led collaboration between Grist, Indian Country Today, High Country News. Native News Online also contributed to this article.

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, or UNPFII, concluded its 21st session on Friday, calling on governments, courts, and U.N. agencies to implement mechanisms to support and protect Indigenous peoples’ lands and lives. It also recommended that Indigenous peoples be given more opportunities to participate in the U.N.’s General Assembly process through “enhanced participation” – a move that could elevate the forum to a level on-par with member states.

The forum is one of the few official venues where Indigenous voices are reliably heard at the U.N., but its role is constricted by a structure that only allows UNPFII members to make recommendations to other U.N. bodies, like the the Economic and Social Council or UNESCO. Indigenous nations, communities, and peoples are classed as non-governmental organizations, and cannot vote or speak to U.N. bodies without an invitation, including the General Assembly. 

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