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Senate appoints first Native American U.S. Ambassador

The Senate confirmed Keith Harper as ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council Tuesday, making him the first Native American to ever become a U.S. ambassador.
Harper is an attorney who was one of the lawyers behind a landmark class-action lawsuit brought by Native Americans against the federal government. President Barack Obama first nominated him in June 2013.

“I’m pleased that my colleagues have voted to appoint another historic first for Indian Country,” said Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in a statement. “As a longtime advocate for the civil rights of Native Americans, Keith will be a great Ambassador for our country.”

A member of the Cherokee Nation, Harper helped represent around 500,000 Native Americans who brought a class-action suit — Cobell v. Salazar — against the United States in the 1990s over alleged federal mismanagement of revenue from mines and oil wells owned by Native Americans.

Harper’s confirmation was approved by a party-line vote of 52-42 and was hailed by Native American groups as a positive step forward.

“Keith’s confirmation is of great accomplishment for all of Indian Country,” said Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly in a statement.

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