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23 Calls to Action that Honor Indigenous Rights: An Open Letter to the Biden-Harris Administration on Presidents Day

To President Biden and Vice President Harris,

While much needs to be done to heal, restore, and redefine our relationships with one another, our lands, and all living beings, we believe that transformation is both possible and necessary. As an Indigenous-led organization that has advocated for Indigenous Peoples' rights and supports Indigenous communities’ self-determination, cultures, and political resilience, since 1972, we understand the importance of returning to the 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 applaud the bold actions taken in your second year in office, including the historic climate and environmental justice investments through the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act by providing around $720 million to Tribal Nations to support various areas, including agriculture, nutrition and forestry, energy and natural resources, among others; the $100 million EPA grants for environmental justice which is the largest amount given by the agency to support underserved and overburdened communities nationwide. We applaud the introduction of the Native American Languages Resource Center Act, supporting Native American language schools and programs, and the Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act, which will ensure a review of federal agencies’ compliance with the Language Act’s requirements and recommendations as well as authorizing federal surveys to review unmet needs of language-revitalization programs. We further applaud the administration for halting the land exchange of Oak Flat to the mining company Resolution Copper and engaging in new rounds of consultation processes with the affected Tribal Nations.  

We also call on you to continue to address injustice, inequity, and violations of Indigenous rights, human rights, and civil rights everywhere. Toward 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 the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), including upholding Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in all department consultation practices. Require that the consultation process and government-to-government relationship between the U.S. and Indigenous Peoples incorporate the right to FPIC.
  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. Take all necessary steps to ensure that the Family Reunification Task Force will reunify the remaining children who were separated from their families due to former President Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.
  4. Protect the Indian Child Welfare Act from being overturned.
  5. Ensure that implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, along with associated support for the production of transition minerals, respects internationally recognized Indigenous rights, including the rights to self-determination and Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
  6. Reject anti-Black and anti-Indigenous policies and practices, and restore federal recognition of the Confederation of the 5 Freedman “Civilized” Tribes.
  7. Establish a Truth Commission by encouraging the passage of H.R.8420 Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy Act.
  8. Ensure that the 30 x 30 initiative, which concerns many Indigenous Peoples in the U.S. and globally, prioritizes Indigenous sovereignty and decision making; seeks Free, Prior and Informed Consent; is led by Indigenous Peoples; and that there is recognition of Indigenous Peoples' rights to their lands, territories, resources, and rights to manage and steward their lands in accordance with Indigenous worldviews, beliefs, traditions, and practices.
  9. Declare a climate emergency and ensure Indigenous Peoples are at the forefront of creating climate solutions. Commit financial resources to climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives by and for Indigenous Peoples through Indigenous-led institutions and funds.
  10. Restore Oak Flat by repealing the land exchange pushed forward by Trump and engaging in a new round of consultations with Tribal Nations and environmentalists.
  11. Enact nationwide bans on the use of racist mascots in sports nationwide.
  12. 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).
  13.  Ratify International Labour Organization Convention 169  Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention.
  14. Secure permanent protection for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and support the reintroduced Arctic Refuge Protection Act.
  15. Halt the Line 3 Pipeline. Pipelines violate Indigenous Peoples’ right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent and contradict President Biden’s stated commitment to mitigating climate change.
  16. Secure permanent protection for all Indigenous sacred sites, including Mauna Kea.
  17. Commit to promoting and implementing effective actions for the protection and respect of the human rights of Indigenous defenders globally.
  18. Pardon and free Leonard Peltier.
  19. Continue to address the demands submitted to UN Special Rapporteurs by Tribal Nations in Louisiana and Alaska as internally displaced people due to climate change, including upholding their sovereignty to address and mitigate climate change impacts and allocating funding to support this.
  20. Respect the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) by addressing the demands of the community of Nuisqut to halt the Willow Project led by ConocoPhillips and alleviate the threat this project poses on the community’s way of life.
  21. Commit to ensuring a Just Transition to a Green Economy which centers Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Reform policies and proposed legislation that incentivizes the green economy to incorporate Indigenous Peoples’ rights under international human rights law, UNDRIP, and treaties between the U.S. and Indigenous Tribes. Require that corporations and companies that develop on or near Indigenous lands and territories, both ancestral and presently occupied, obtain the FPIC of Indigenous Peoples. Hold companies accountable to human rights commitments throughout the supply chain related to electric vehicle production.
  22. Repeal Trump’s approval of the Thacker Pass Lithium mine and engage in a new round of consultation with the affected Tribal Nations.
  23. Continue the measures taken to reform the 1872 Mining Law. 

Addressing this non-exhaustive list of 23 calls to action 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 continuing the good work that lies ahead and the healing of our nation with Indigenous Peoples at the forefront.

Cultural Survival

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Photo: Indigenous Peoples March. Photo by Chenae Bullock.