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Obama Announces Support for UN Indigenous Rights Declaration

President Barack Obama speaks at the White House Tribal Nations Conference at the Interior Department in Washington, 16 Dec 2010

U.S. President Barack Obama says the U.S. is lending its support to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

President Obama made the announcement Thursday at a White House Tribal Nations Conference, bringing together leaders of the 565 federally recognized tribes.

The audience applauded and cheered after Mr. Obama declared U.S. support for the U.N. declaration. He said the aspirations it affirms, including respect for the institutions and rich cultures of native peoples, are ones the U.S. must always seek to fulfill.

The administration said in April that it is reviewing the U.S. position on the declaration, which the U.N. General Assembly adopted in 2007. The U.S. had voted against the measure, along with three other nations - Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Since the declaration's adoption, Australia and New Zealand have reversed their positions, and Canada announced in March that it would take steps to endorse it.

Native American communities have been plagued with problems, including drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment, poverty, inadequate health care, neglected schools and crime.

President Obama said at the conference Thursday that his administration has taken steps to address those needs, undertaking efforts to improve the economy, education and health care.