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15 Calls to Action that Honor Indigenous Rights: An Open Letter to the Biden-Harris Administration


Greetings President Biden, Vice-President Harris, and all members of this new administration, 

Cultural Survival extends our congratulations and a warm welcome to your new leadership role. As we all know and have experienced, the past four years have been nothing short of destruction and chaos for our communities and Mother Earth. While much is needed to be done to heal, restore, and re-define our relationships with one another, our lands, and all living things, we believe that transformation is both possible and necessary. As an Indigenous-led organization who advocates for Indigenous Peoples' rights and supports Indigenous communities’ self-determination, cultures and political resilience, since 1972, we understand the importance of returning to right relationship with one another and our environment. We believe we are in a moment of time where we must choose one of two paths: one that centers reciprocity, love, empathy, inclusion, equity and kinship, or, one that centers hate, division, discrimination, extraction, and profits over people. We hope that this administration will go down the right path to right the wrongs of history. 

We applaud the bold actions taken via numerous executive orders issued in your first weeks, including rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, rescinding the Keystone XL Pipeline permit, and placing a temporary moratorium on oil and gas activity in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We also call on you to continue to address injustice, inequity, violations of Indigenous, human, and civil rights everywhere. 

Towards that end, we urge you to address this initial list of issues of importance to Native communities in the United States.

  1. Recognize treaties with Tribal Nations as the supreme law of the land; Establish a commission to reexamine treaties signed with Tribal Nations and find ways they can be honored and implemented in today’s circumstances by operationalizing UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including upholding Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) in all department consultation practices.
  2. Draft  a National Action Plan for implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples based on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples Outcome Document.
  3. Reverse the inhumane policy of separating children from parents at the U.S-Mexico border and provide a mechanism for redress. 
  4. Reject anti-Black and anti-Indigenous policies and practices, and restore the federal recognition of the Confederation 5 Freedman Tribes.
  5. Establish a Truth Commission by encouraging the passage of H.R.8420 Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy Act.
  6. Protect Indigenous languages: encouraging the passage of H.R.8729  Native American Language Resource Center Act.
  7. Encourage the passage of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act (H.R.312) in the Senate.
  8. Restore Oak Flat by repealing the land exchange pushed forward by Trump in his last days as president. 
  9. Enact bans on the use of racist mascots nationally.
  10. Ratify Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED), Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). 
  11. Increase COVID-19 relief support for Tribal Nations and urban American Indian communities to support their self-determined recovery, community infrastructure and re-building.

Moreover, we also echo important calls made by our relatives at Land is Life in their open letter dated January 26, especially:

  1. Secure permanent protection for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and halt construction of the Dakota Access and Enbridge Line 3 pipelines.

  2. Secure permanent protection for the sacred sites Mauna Kea, Bears Ears National Monument, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

  3. Commit to promoting and implementing effective actions for the protection and respect of the human rights of Indigenous defenders globally.

  4. Pardon and free Leonard Peltier.

Addressing this non-exhaustive list of 15 calls to actions serves as a momentous opportunity for the United States to restore its relationship with Tribal Nations and the lands that we all call home. Following and respecting the leadership of American Indians and Indigenous Peoples and continuing to increase their representation in leadership positions within your administration will support your efforts to implement these calls to action. Thank you for your service and we look forward to the good work that lies ahead and the healing of our nation with Indigenous Peoples at the forefront. 


Cultural Survival 


Share this letter on social media and send it to the White House. 


Special Acknowledgements: Deep gratitude and recognition of Saché Primeaux-Shaw (Ponca, Yankton-Dakota, Seminole and Chickasaw Freedman), Community Organizer and Janene Yazzie (Diné), Consultant, CEO of Sixth World Solutions and North American Focal Point to the Indigenous Peoples Major Groups to the SDGs for their invaluable expertise and contributions to this letter.


Photo: Indigenous Peoples March. Photo by Chenae Bullock.