Tribal States Summit at the White House: Biden to Protect Native American Sacred Sites

WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden will demonstrate his commitment to Native Americans on Monday by taking steps to improve public safety and justice for their communities and seek a moratorium on drilling. oil and gas for 20 years on Chaco Canyon, an ancient heritage site in northwestern New Mexico.

Biden was prepared to announce the measures when he spoke at the first tribal states summit since 2016. Leaders from more than 570 tribes in the United States are expected to attend. participated in the two-day event, with nearly three dozen speakers at the meeting.

The White House has largely hosted the summit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected Native Americans and Native Alaskans disproportionately.

First Lady Jill Biden will also speak on Monday, with Vice President Kamala Harris later on Tuesday. Several members of Biden’s Cabinet will also participate.

According to the American Indian Association, American Indians and Alaska Natives are twice and at least twice as likely to become victims of violent crime than other races. is different.

White House officials said on Sunday, White House officials said Biden had signed an executive order ordering the Justice, Homeland Security and Interior departments to work together to help fight trafficking. people and crime on indigenous lands. They are looking to increase participation in Amber Alert programs and national training programs for federal agents. They will also create a liaison who can talk to family members and advocates.

Biden is also expected to announce steps to protect Chaco Canyon, a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site a few hours northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Bureau of Land Management, an agency of the Department of the Interior, will begin a 20-year expropriation study from federal lands within a 10-mile (16 km) radius of the National Historic Park. Chaco culture. Such a move would preclude new federal oil and gas leasing and development on those lands. Those lands will not be eligible for lease while the study is underway, despite the previous administration choosing to impose an administrative buffer zone.

Environmentalists and some tribesmen have complained such a move is temporary and requires long-term protections. But it’s not that simple; While several tribes fought for protection, the Navajo Nation, which had more to lose due to oil and gas restrictions, requested a smaller radius around the site, a central ancient Pueblo culture.

Minister Deb Haaland said: “The Chaco Gorge is a sacred place of profound significance for the indigenous peoples whose ancestors lived, worked and thrived in that high desert community. “Now is the time to consider more permanent protections for the living landscape that is Chaco, so we can pass on this rich cultural heritage to future generations.”

The Tribal States Summit coincides with National Native American Heritage Month and is hosted by the White House for the first time. The summit was not held under the Trump administration; recent conferences have taken place at the Ministry of the Interior.

Since taking office in January, Biden has taken a number of steps that the White House says demonstrate his commitment to tribal states.

Among them were named Haaland, a former congressman from New Mexico who was the first Native American to lead the Department of the Interior, the powerful federal agency that has influenced American tribes for generations. . Haaland is a member of Laguna Pueblo.

The White House says Biden’s coronavirus relief plan includes $31 billion for tribal communities, and the administration has worked closely with tribal leaders to help bring COVID-19 vaccination rates to people. Native American became the highest in the country, the White House said.

Navajo National Assembly delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty said she hopes the summit will help remove red tape when building critical infrastructure on tribal lands. She is also interested in “concrete action” from the government through executive orders to provide the most support to help Indigenous communities recover from COVID-19 and “the system being served by the government.” our community.”

Biden recently became the first president to issue a proclamation designating October 11 as Indigenous Peoples Day, giving momentum to longstanding efforts to refocus on the Christopher Columbus federal holiday to celebrate high prices natives.

Earlier this year, Jill Biden spent two days in April visiting the capital of the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Arizona.


Associated Press writers Colleen Long in Washington and Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, NM, contributed to this report.


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