President Joe Biden announced a plan to improve consultation and increase spending on Indigenous Affairs in the United Statesas part of its commitment to “prioritize and respect relations between nations”.
In a speech at the Department of the Interior in Washington, DC, on Wednesday during the first in-person Tribal States Summit in six years, Biden highlighted the impacts of climate change on people. indigenous people.
“As you all know, there are tribal communities at risk of being swept away — swept away by hurricanes, rising sea levels and raging wildfires,” Biden said, recalling his own visits. he traveled to areas ravaged by hurricanes and fires.
“That’s why I announced today [a] Committed $135 million to help 11 tribal communities from Maine, Louisiana, Arizona, Washington state and Alaska move, in some cases, entire communities back to safer ground.”
Biden also announced that he will ask Congress to allocate $9.1 billion in required funding to the Indian Health Service, a federal agency responsible for providing health care to the ministries of health care. federally recognized contacts and Alaska Native groups.
There are 574 federally recognized Indigenous tribes The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that many of them are “more vulnerable to the health effects of climate change than the general population”.
EPA cites unreliable infrastructure, institutional barriers such as limited access to resources and traditional territories, and higher rates of certain medical conditions such as asthma as increasing vulnerability of Indigenous groups.
A 2020 report by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs highlighted “significant unmet need for financial resources” as indigenous communities prepare for the impacts of climate change. Queen.
It forecasts that resettlement costs will amount to $3.45 billion for Alaska Native communities and $1.365 billion for Indigenous communities in the contiguous United States over the next 50 years.
During the summit, Biden showcased his administration’s track record in providing funding to tribal communities, pointing out $32 billion in US Rescue Plan and $13 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law exclusively for indigenous people.
In his speech, Biden laid out a vision that included safer drinking water, a more affordable Internet, and restoration of waterways and ecosystems.
He points to a project on the Pine Ridge Preserve in South Dakota, where federal infrastructure spending will fund the repair of two dams – the Oglala Dam and the Allen Dam – that are considered a danger to human safety.
“For years now, tribes have lived in the shadow of disaster, worried that dams will burst, destroying their communities,” Biden said. “So they will soon be able to sleep a much more peaceful night knowing that those dams have been completely repaired.”
In addition to the proposed spending, Biden also announced on Wednesday that he had signed a new presidential memorandum to improve consultation between the federal government and the federal government. tribal nation.
The memo requires federal agencies to clearly communicate the deadlines and context for each consultation and to keep public records of them. It also requires that all relevant federal agencies receive annual training in the tribal consultation process.
“Federal agencies should try to reach a tribal consensus,” Biden said, describing it as “a radically altered approach.”
“In my view, we are ushering in a new era and promoting a way for the federal government to work with tribal states,” he told the audience. “And it started with appointing Native Americans to lead the front lines of my administration.”
Biden’s comment introduced by Interior Minister Deb Haalanda member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe and the first native to be appointed cabinet secretary.
She was one of several historic appointments under the Biden administration, including the appointment of Lynn Malerba of the Mohegan Tribe as the first Native American treasurer earlier this year.
Biden also made clear his commitment to protect Avi Kwa Ame, the Mojave name for an area in the southernmost tip of Nevada known as the Mountain of Gods.
A white granite peak jutting into a rugged desert landscape with canyons and rock formations, Avi Kwa Ame is considered the spiritual birthplace of 10 Yuman-speaking tribes.
“When it comes to Mount Spirit and its surrounding ridges and canyons in southern Nevada, I am committed to protecting this sacred site that is at the heart of the creation story of so many of the tribes present here today. now,” Biden said.
Currently, 13,564 hectares (33,518 acres) of the area are designated as federal wilderness.
A coalition of indigenous tribes, environmental groups and Nevada legislators is pushing for an estimated 182,100 hectares (450,000 acres) of named a national monumentprotected from development.