People First Indigenous Communities

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People First Indigenous Communities Policy

The strength of our nation has always been our capacity to learn from our failures and work together towards a better future. For generations, Indigenous communities have been treated as second-class citizens rather than sovereign tribal nations free to determine their destiny. The federal government has repeatedly failed to honor treaty obligations, respect unique government-to-government relationships, and allowed corporations to exploit sacred land for their own profits.

This history has contributed to greater disparity, greater injustice, and in some cases, intolerable conditions in Indigenous communities.

Native families are more likely to live in poverty, and often lack access to quality health care, affordable and safe housing, education, Internet access, and economic opportunity. Indigenous women are more likely to experience violence, and more likely to never receive justice. Additionally, extractive industries reap the benefits of Indigenous land often without permission, while these communities disproportionately feel the effects of a changing climate.

As Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama, I visited and worked with Indigenous communities and tribal nations across the country, hearing directly from native peoples about their experiences and challenges they face. These conversations were some of the most impactful of my entire career. At the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, I visited a home with 13 members all sharing an extremely crowded two-bedroom house. Despite the most difficult of circumstances, this family and native community were resilient, and remained determined to make progress in partnership with the federal government.

Indigenous people have been continually subject to cruelty and neglect at the hands of the federal government. They deserve a president who will strengthen tribal sovereignty, honor treaty commitments, ensure justice for Indigenous women, and advance tribal-federal partnerships for progress.

As president, I will partner with Indigenous communities for a fairer and more prosperous future.

My People First Indigenous Communities platform lays out a blueprint for ensuring all native people and communities can thrive in the years ahead.

1

Strengthening Tribal Sovereignty

  • Respect the sovereignty and unique government-to-government relationships of Indigenous peoples and federal government by honoring treaty obligations.
  • Create a White House Council on Indigenous Communities to coordinate interagency Native American policy and reinstitute the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference to facilitate high-level engagement with Indigenous communities.
  • Establish expanded pathways to self-governance and self-determination by passing the PROGRESS for Indian Tribes Act, introduced by Rep. Deb Haaland and Sen. John Hoeven.
  • Establish well-resourced Tribal Advisory Committees within all cabinet-level federal agencies by the end of 2024, and continue the work of Executive Order 13175 ensuring tribal governments and communities have a voice in federal policymaking and prompt access to federal agencies.
  • Increase diversity in federal government agencies by working with Indigenous communities and partnering with Tribal Colleges, Universities and Native American-serving institutions to create pipelines for meaningful employment.
  • Implement the Carcieri fix to address the decision from the Supreme Court case Carcieri v. Salazar (2009), through the passage of HR375, which amends the Act of June 18, 1934, to reaffirm the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for Indian Tribes.

2

Honoring Treaty Commitments

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution classifies treaties as the “supreme law of the land.” The federal government has not only a moral responsibility to fulfill treaty commitments, but a constitutional obligation. In a Castro Administration, we will honor these treaty commitments.

Healthcare:

  • Work with Congress to fully fund the Indian Health Service (IHS) for both tribal and urban native communities as a part of healthcare reform, bridging the $5,000 per capita deficit in healthcare investment for tribal communities, and ensure this funding is protected against lapses in government appropriations.
  • Expand access to healthcare facilities, providers, professionals and technologies like telemedicine to Indigenous communities and adapt public health programs to address the unique needs of Indigenous communities, including in prenatal care, mental, and dental care.
  • Combat the opioid crisis in native communities by ensuring that the Indian Health Service and tribes have access to both funding and training to put best practices in place, in partnership with tribal governments and in combination with a broader plan to end this public health crisis.

Housing:

  • Invest an additional $2.5 billion over 10 years to ensure full funding of Indian Housing Block Grant program, the Indian Community Development Block Grant Program program, and the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant Program, streamline processes to access funds, and reassess funding formulas under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA) that determine grant sizes to ensure they are consistent with community needs.
  • Pass the Tribal HUD-VASH Act, introduced by Sen. Jon Tester and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, to codify housing protections to Native American veterans, continuing the work of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Secretary Castro, and commit to end veteran homelessness by 2025 through a national investment of $5 billion a year to combat homelessness.

Education:

  • Commit to investing in universal pre-K and tribal school infrastructure, including in accessibility and safety as part of a comprehensive effort to invest $150 billion into public schools over the next ten years.
  • Recruit and retain teachers from Indigenous communities, including bilingual teachers who speak Indigenous languages, through a national teacher residency initiative that includes integration with minority-serving institutions, including Tribal Colleges and Universities and other Native American-serving institutions, expands access to state certification for teachers, and increase teacher pay in tribal schools through a teacher tax credit of up to $10,000.
  • Directly support minority-serving institutions, including Tribal Colleges and Universities and other Native American-serving institutions through $3 billion dollars a year in investment.

Economic Opportunity:

  • Invest in economic development and entrepreneurship through competitive grant development programs such as Promise Zones, strengthening the Office of Native American Business Development, expanding the Buy Indian Act, loan guarantees, and business incubator programs with the Jobs for Tribes Act, introduced by Rep. Norma Torres, and invest at least $150 million over ten years for these programs.
  • Expand high speed Internet access to tribal communities within five years and bridge the digital divide by working directly with tribal governments to direct investments.
  • Restore Title II protections for the Internet, including consumer protections such as net neutrality that are particularly necessary for communities without significant competition.
  • Work with tribal governments to improve infrastructure on tribal lands, connect Indigenous communities to job opportunities in neighboring cities — including in roads, mass transit, waterways, and access to airports — and support climate resiliency in frontline Indigenous communities, particularly in Alaska.

Land Use and the Environment:

  • Modernize and codify tribal consultation requirements to ensure federal agencies, including independent agencies, have a meaningful and responsive process to solicit input from Indigenous communities when pursuing policies that affect them and ensure communities have judicial recourse when meaningful consultation is not conducted.
  • End leasing of federal lands for fossil fuel exploration and extraction to protect lands that have traditional religious and cultural importance to Indigenous communities and require free, prior, and informed consent from indigenous communities for major infrastructure projects on these federal lands.
  • Expand the U.S. Department of Energy’s Tribal Energy Program to support technical assistance, education, training, and incentives for renewable energy investments by tribal communities, including tribal governments and native-led nonprofits that work in Indigenous communities, and ensure Indigenous communities have a meaningful voice in the transition to a carbon-free future.

Cultural Sovereignty:

  • Defend the Indian Child Welfare Act against legal challenges and other efforts that undermine the law.
  • Pass the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act, introduced by Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, to strengthen and reauthorize the Native American Languages Grant Program and commit to $130 million for the program over 10 years to ensure the survival and vitality of Indigenous languages.
  • As a part of instituting universal pre-K programs through grants to state, local, and tribal governments, support language programs in Indigenous languages.
  • Establish a Indigenous Community Cultural Repatriation Fund in partnership with tribal governments, funded by both federal funds and charitable donations, to repatriate privately-owned Indigenous cultural property to tribes or, with the consent of Indigenous communities, in museums and other public institutions.
  • Pass the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act, introduced by Sen. Martin Heinrich and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, to prosecute the illegal export of tribal cultural heritage, facilitate the return of these items from foreign countries, and strengthen the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
  • Provide federal funding to tribes to increase the availability of culturally-appropriate food, including by ensuring Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) supports culturally-appropriate foods, invest in disease-prevention and health maintenance of native peoples, and support tribal farmers markets to improve market access for Indigenous farmers.

3

Justice for Indigenous Women

  • Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) for at least five years to prevent relapse of VAWA authorities and expand tribal jurisdiction, including over non-native individuals, over sexual assault, stalking, trafficking, and child abuse.
  • Roll back President Trump’s Department of Justice changes in definition of domestic violence to re-include psychological abuse and other non-physical actions.
  • Repeal the Hyde amendment to ensure the Indian Health Service, often the only healthcare provider in native communities, can provide comprehensive healthcare services including abortion.
  • Prioritizing the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) and the human trafficking of native women and girls by forming a Presidential task force of tribal leaders, public health officials, and federal officials, including law enforcement.
  • Pass Savanna’s Act, introduced by Rep. Norma Torres and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, to create standards for the investigation of cases of MMIW.
  • Pass the Not Invisible Act, introduced by Rep. Deb Haaland and Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto, to create an Advisory Committee within the Bureau of Indian Affairs about how to best prevent, report, and respond to violence and human trafficking across Indigenous communities.
  • Pass the Survive Act, introduced by Rep. Tom O’Halleran and Sen. John Hoeven, to establish a grant program to Indian Tribes to support victims of crime including domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse.

4

Eliminating Barriers to Democratic Participation

  • Ensure Indigenous communities are fully able to participate in democracy by ensuring equal access to in-person, early and all forms of voting and combat efforts to disenfranchise members of Indigenous communities through efforts such as voter ID laws.
  • Work with tribal governments to eliminate barriers to voting, including by training local election administrators from tribal communities and expand satellite absentee voting to reach remote areas.

5

Partnering with Indigenous Communities Throughout the Americas

  • Affirm support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its principles to recognize the freedoms and rights of Indigenous peoples in the United States and abroad.
  • Pass the Jobs for Tribes Act, introduced by Rep. Norma Torres, to promote cultural exchange and economic links between Indigenous communities in the United States and their counterparts throughout the Americas.
  • Ensure that a 21st Century Marshall Plan for Central America to support accountability, anti-corruption, and economic development in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, includes assistance for marginalized Indigenous communities that face structural barriers to safety and opportunity.
  • Ensure individuals from Indigenous communities that do not speak Spanish, including those that seek asylum, have access to interpreters, legal counsel, and are fully informed of their rights during immigration-related legal proceedings.