From the start, our nation’s history with indigenous groups has been filled with bloodshed and cruel acts of injustice – from European colonists wiping out communities to the American government forcing men, women, and children out of their ancestral homes. Although the federal government has signed numerous treaties with Native tribes to promote peace and acknowledge their sovereignties, it broke many of these treaties in the name of land exploitation and expansion.
Because of these past transgressions and broken promises, indigenous communities today face multiple hardships, from high poverty rates and inadequate healthcare services to substandard housing, and more. With the recent voter suppression attempts after the 2018 midterms in North Dakota and the Tongva people’s struggle to access federal rescue funds due to lack of federal recognition, the list of challenges is, unfortunately, escalating.
Although it’s no easy task, our federal government must step up to atone and make amends for the cumulative offenses of U.S. policies. We need to right past wrongs and find remedies for the issues caused by these previous misdeeds.
After all, according to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, “The federal government should provide adequate funding for the essentials of life, not as a gift or as charity, but as the fulfillment of commitments made at the founding and throughout the expansion of this nation.”
Respect Tribal Sovereignty
- Pushing for federal recognition of the Tongva Nation to ensure they can receive federal resources as well as working with them to find ways to meaningfully acknowledge their land.
- Efforts by tribal nations to protect and restore their heritage and communities.
- Protection of Native American religious freedoms.
- Giving back dominant control of the Black Hills of South Dakota to the Sioux (Lakota/Dakota/Nakota) Nation. The Black Hills, deemed sacred to those nations, were guaranteed by treaty in 1868 and should be returned as promised.
- Rescinding the Medals of Honor given for Valor in Battle to the soldiers who decimated Native Americans at Wounded Knee.
- Putting an end to the construction of the Bakkan pipeline, recognizing Native tribes’ sovereignty over their territory.
- Congressional actions to address historic wrongdoings from the Federal Indian boarding school system to promote restorative justice for indigenous people who were negatively impacted.
- Continuing tribal nation summits are held annually in Washington, DC, with the full backing of important cabinet agencies. The goals would include discussing and getting feedback on concerns relating to planned federal activities which may impact tribal nations.
Help Strengthen Infrastructure on Tribal Lands
- Reconsidering treaties that have limited Native Tribes’ capability to make judgments about their own lands. Many of these choices are economical and represent decisions that should be made only by Native nations themselves.
- Provide full, permanent, and entitlement funding for Water and Sanitation infrastructure on Tribal lands and reservations and for Tribal water programs at EPA.
- Laws requiring full and accurate disclosures of the environmental and economic impact of any oil leases or drilling on or near Native lands to those tribes, prior to approval.
- Promoting environmental justice like H.R. 2021 for indigenous communities impacted by climate change.
- Federal funding and assistance for Native American communities who wish to combat climate change as well as transition to renewable energy infrastructure.
Improve Social Services for Native American Communities
- Funding and providing resources to match the significant needs for education, infrastructure, and economic development in Tribal nations.
- Efforts to address the horrifying crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women by working with organizations already doing the work in this area to go beyond the Savanna Act and Not Invisible Act.
- Support amendments in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), to improve assistance in addressing unaddressed abuse in some Native American communities.
- Advancement of Native lands’ justice systems; mainly due to chronic underfunding, these systems currently make it onerous to enforce prosecution of non-natives accused of major crimes.
- Protecting the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which was first passed in 1978 to fix the cruel history of state child welfare agencies taking Native American children from their biological family and tribe and giving custody to non-Native, typically white, foster parents. Several states, including Texas, are currently trying to invalidate ICWA before the U.S. Supreme Court to make it easier for foster parents to adopt children away from their tribes. This cannot stand.
Things didn’t have to be this way. If the European colonists and the U.S. government had not treated indigenous communities inhumanely, the current situation could have been dramatically different. Especially as we increase our historical understanding and gradual cultural awakening, I will work tirelessly to put our communities first and mend old wounds, to write a new chapter of our American story.
Help us honor those who were here before us, and join the movement.