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Last week, during a joint visit in Arizona to the American Indian Veterans National Memorial by Vice President Biden and Senator Harris, their campaign released a strong new policy proposal on Native American tribal nations that acknowledges that Native Americans “have lived on this land since time immemorial” but have been denied “equality for all.” The plan contains promises on tribal sovereignty, protection of cultural heritage sites and tribal lands and water rights, conservation of biodiversity, and ensuring that Indigenous communities that are disproportionately harmed by climate change and pollution are the first to benefit from new grant programs.
Why This Matters: Like environmental issues generally, Native American issues are being elevated with the new calls for improving environmental justice and ending structural racism embodied in the high rates of pollution and lack of clean drinking water on tribal lands. It is also clear that new Native American members of Congress, like Congresswoman Deb Haaland of New Mexico, are making their mark. Haaland is running for a leadership post in the House of Representatives, even though she was only elected in 2018 — one of the first Native American women ever elected to Congress. It’s about time Native Americans are represented at the highest levels of the federal government.
Day One Priorities
If elected, Biden promises on “Day One” to issue executive orders to “protect biodiversity, slow extinction rates, and leverage natural climate solutions by conserving 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030.” He also promises to reverse many of the policies of the Trump Administration that have negatively impacted Tribes, including restoring permanent protection to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other areas that President Trump has attacked, and will reverse President Trump’s proclamation lifting protections on one of the most sacred Native American sites, The Bears Ears National Monument. Biden promises also to “honor the role of tribal governments” in protecting tribal resources — cultural and natural. In addition, the Biden Administration would increase Native Americans’ access to top levels of government and he will reinstate the White House Council on Native American Affairs, which azcentral.com reports that President Trump ignored for the first three years of his term.
Tribal Leaders Impressed
While in Arizona, Biden and Harris met with local tribal leaders. At one point, Biden said, “We owe you so much,” according to azcentral.com. The Chairman of the Hopi Tribe, Timothy Nuvangyaoma said of the meeting, “it spoke volumes that they chose to meet with tribal nations, with some of the tribal leaders here in Arizona, to understand and maybe learn a little bit more about some of the impacts on us.”
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