Recognition of the need—the responsibility—to include indigenous people in politics and global discussion of matters like climate change has been increasing around the world, but only last week did the U.S. endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

ACLU points out that the decision reverses the Bush administration's 2007 decision, when the U.S. voted against UNDRIP while 145 nations supported it.

In announcing U.S. support for the declaration, President Obama said:

The aspirations it affirms -- including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples -- are one we must always seek to fulfill... What matters far more than words -- what matters far more than any resolution or declaration -- are actions to match those words... That's the standard I expect my administration to be held to.

By virtue of the longstanding failure to tackle wrenching problems in Indian Country, it seemed as though you had to either abandon your heritage or accept a lesser lot in life; that there was no way to be a successful part of America and a proud Native American. But we know this is a false choice.

There's plenty of work to do, in the U.S. and around the world, to establish a more equal playing field and to involve indigenous communities in decisions and changes that are crucial for the planet.

As ACLU said, "unqualified endorsement of the declaration is not enough. Effective promotion and implementation of the UNDRIP will require the Obama administration to work in full partnership with indigenous peoples, tribal governments and nations to address the serious human rights challenges that continue to face indigenous communities in this country." But recognizing the work that lies ahead is an important first step.