Ambassador Keith M. Harper

U.S. Candidate for the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Ambassador Harper at the U.N.

Ambassador Harper, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, is the first Native American to be named a U.S. Ambassador, serving from 2014 to 2017 as U.S. Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN Human Rights Council. He is a Partner at Jenner & Block and is Chair of the Native American Practice and Co-Chair of the Human Rights & Global Strategy Practice. He also teaches a course on human rights at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs as a Senior Fellow. Ambassador Harper’s impressive career as an attorney and diplomat dedicated to human rights, particularly those of Indigenous women and girls, and the rights of Indigenous peoples, make him a highly qualified candidate for the PFII.

Why is This Election Important to the United States?

The United States prioritizes advancing the well-being of Indigenous peoples domestically and worldwide.  We strongly support the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) to improve the safety and quality of life and livelihoods of Indigenous peoples globally. 

I strongly affirm the United States’ support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and our commitment to advancing Indigenous Peoples’ rights at home and abroad. The Declaration guides us – where appropriate – to improve our laws and policies within the structure of the U.S. Constitution and international obligations. We need enhanced participation and meaningful engagement of Indigenous Peoples throughout our UN bodies.

Deb Haaland, U.S. Secretary of the Interior

Ambassador Harper’s PFII Priorities

“If I have the privilege of being elected as an independent expert to the PFII, I hope to focus on the following priority areas:

  • Work to ensure the UN works to listen to and protects voices of human rights defenders and engages with NGOs in good faith.
  • Maximize the return on Member State investments in compensation and containment of costs; 
  • Capitalize on experience as a senior U.S. diplomat advancing human rights writ large to understand how states interact among themselves when others are not at the table.
  • Bring understanding of the law and best practices to aid the Permanent Forum.”
In this short video, Ambassador Harper discusses his PFII priorities

Decades of Leadership and Experience in Human Rights and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Ambassador (ret.) Keith M. Harper, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, is a Partner at Jenner & Block and is Chair of the Native American Practice and Co-Chair of the Human Rights & Global Strategy Practice.  Concurrently, he teaches a course on human rights at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs as a Senior Fellow.  He is the first Native American to be named a U.S. Ambassador, serving from 2014 to 2017 as U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council.  Harper represented 500,000 Native Americans as class counsel in the landmark Indian trust funds lawsuit Cobell v. Salazar, where he negotiated a settlement of the case for 3.4 billion dollars.

From 2010 to 2014, Ambassador Harper served as Commissioner on the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships.  He also served as a chair for Native American policy in the 2008 Obama for America presidential campaign and then as a member of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team in the Energy and Environment Cluster.  Ambassador Harper was previously a litigator at the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) from 1995 to 2006.  During his tenure at NARF, he also taught Federal Indian Law as an adjunct professor at Catholic University, Columbus School of Law and at American University Washington College of Law.  Ambassador Harper served as a Supreme Court Justice on the Supreme Court of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians from 2007 to 2008 and as an Appellate Justice on the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court from 2001 to 2007.

While attending New York University School of Law, Ambassador Harper served as Articles and Notes Editor of the Journal of International Law and Politics, was a Root-Tilden-Snow Scholar and a Fellow at Center for International Studies.  After graduation, he was law clerk to the Honorable Lawrence W. Pierce on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Ambassador Harper is the recipient of numerous awards and other recognitions, including: the United Nations Association Human Rights in Diplomacy Award (2017); National Congress of American Indians Special Recognition Award (2017); Cherokee National Statesman Award (2014); American Bar Association “Human Rights Hero” (2014); the Native American Bar Association, DC, Award for Significant Contributions to Indian Law and Policy (2012); LawDragon 500 (top 500 lawyers in United States) (2010); selection as one of 50 “Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America” by the National Law Journal (2008); Black, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander Alumni Association Outstanding Professional Achievement Honor (2009); Rockefeller Foundation Next Generation of Leaders Fellow (2002-2004); University of Arizona School of Law – IPLP Colloquium Senior Fellow (2003); Henry H. Fowler Fellow on Public Policy, Roanoke College (1999); Skadden, Arps Fellow (1995-1997).

Learn More about Ambassador Harper

U.S. Department of State

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