Harper confirmed as U.N. Human Rights Council ambassador
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate today confirmed Cherokee Nation citizen Keith Harper as the country’s ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Nominated by President Barack Obama in 2013, Harper will be the first Native American to serve as an ambassador for the United States.
“Native peoples have conducted nation to nation diplomacy throughout the Americas for thousands of years. Upon confirmation, Keith Harper will join a small number of Native peoples who have been called upon to serve the United States as Ambassador,” said the National Congress of American Indians in a statement. “Mr. Harper’s extensive legal experience, both in Indian law and beyond, will be an invaluable resource to the UN Human Rights Council. As a tribal citizen, Mr. Harper will serve the United States with a sense of both the terrible history of human rights abuses against Native peoples and the strength of Indigenous cultures that always seek justice for all peoples.”
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said Harper has had an “exemplary” career as a lawyer and a judge after confirming him.
“I’m pleased that my colleagues have voted to appoint another historic first in Indian Country,” he said. “As a longtime advocate for the civil rights of Native Americans, Keith will be a great Ambassador for our country.”
According to Civil Rights org., which endorsed Harper’s nomination, the U.N. General Assembly is slated to hold a World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September, and “Mr. Harper’s presence there on behalf of the United States will send a strong message about the United States’ commitment to the rights of indigenous peoples.”
Harper served as a member on the president’s Commission on White House Fellowships. Prior to that, Harper was senior staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund from 1995 to 2006. From 2007-08, he served as a Supreme Court justice on the Supreme Court of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and from 2001-07 he served as an appellate justice on the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court.
From 1998 to 2001, he was an adjunct professor at the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law and from 1999 to 2001 he was a professorial lecturer at the American University Washington College of Law.
Harper was a law clerk to the Honorable Lawrence W. Pierce on the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. He began his career as a Litigation Associate with Davis, Polk & Wardwell in New York. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley and a juris doctorate from New York University School of Law.
The Senate approved Harper with a 52-42 vote, with 6 senators not voting. Both of Oklahoma’s Republican senators, Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, voted against Harper. The CN is located within Oklahoma.
Republicans stated that Harper is a fundraiser for Obama who has exhibited poor judgment on the issue of human rights. All those opposing Harper’s nomination were Republicans.
Both of Maryland’s Democratic senators, Benjamin Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, voted for him. Harper resides in Maryland. All those voting to confirm were Democrats, along with independent Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine.