- By Levi Rickert
WASHINGTON — With the release of the White House’s Putting America's First Peoples First - Forgotten No More! policy vision and the Biden campaign’s Biden-Harris Plan for Tribal Nations, both major presidential candidates have offered up plans for Indian Country.
The Biden-Harris Plan for Tribal Nations is a 15-page document, while the president’s plan is outlined in cursory terms in only three pages.
Both plans contain similar elements, such as increasing broadband across Indian Country, addressing the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls crisis, and improving American Indian education.
The White House takes credit for congressional legislation that the president signed off on, as if he authored the bills he put his signature on.
The Biden-Harris plan, which was released 12 days prior to the Trump plan, commits to immediately reinstating the annual White House Nations Conference that was established during the Obama era and was convened for the eight years the administration was in office.
In the White House plan, the Trump-Pence administration agrees to “Host National Tribal Leader Convening and establish a National Week of Consultation.” While this commitment was mentioned in the plan, there are no details about what the convening would actually look like.
One key component in the Biden-Harris plan that does not appear in the Trump-Pence plan is that under a Biden presidency, Native Americans would be appointed to high-level federal government positions, a feature that was a part of the Obama-Biden administration.
While the White House plan is much shorter, there are comparisons that can be made between the two documents. Here’s how the two plans compare:
The Trump administration is committed to respecting Tribal sovereignty and will continue to empower Native American communities with the resources they need to promote self-determination.
- Support the formation of a blue-ribbon commission to explore avenues to cut and reform taxation of tribal citizens.
- Respect tribal sovereignty by empowering tribes to manage their own land and resources through self-governance programs.
Joe Biden understands that tribal sovereignty and self-governance, as well as honoring the federal trust responsibility to tribal nations, should be the cornerstones of federal Indian policy. As President, Biden will build on the efforts of the Obama-Biden administration, which were instrumental in rebuilding trust, good faith, and respect for the tribal-federal relationship. Biden will ensure tribes have a seat at the table at the highest levels of the federal government and a voice throughout the government.
President Trump is committed to increasing public safety in Indian Country—particularly by continuing to find solutions to longstanding challenges like missing and murdered Native Americans and the opioid and meth crises.
Ensure that federal law enforcement prioritizes public safety in Indian Country, with engagement from tribal communities.
Direct the U.S. Department of Justice to fully investigate the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and children.
Expand federal resources for prevention and survivor support initiatives for Native women and girls. Biden has laid out a comprehensive plan to expand resources for prevention and survivor support initiatives, ranging from supports like a stronger safety net for survivors including housing and cash assistance to the expansion of advocates and access to lawyers so survivors can get the justice they deserve.
Support addiction treatment, mental health services and trauma recovery to break the cycles of crime and victimization. Biden will renew that commitment to healing and supportive services in Native communities by increasing the availability of addiction treatment, mental health and trauma recovery services, building on the Obama-Biden administration’s support for the Adult Tribal Healing to Wellness Programs and Juvenile Treatment Drug Court.
President Trump will support improved business opportunities and infrastructure in Indian Country so that all Americans benefit from the country’s historic economic prosperity.
The plan cited opportunity zones program that would be enhanced and funds for existing programs, such as community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and Small Business Administration minority business development would be increased.
- Expand self-determination in energy development through tribal energy resources agreements.
- Nurture agricultural production.
- Support broadband to improve connectivity in Indian Country.
Under the Biden-Harris plan, the administration commits to work with tribes to provide the resources and assistance they need to dismantle long-standing economic challenges, including deficient infrastructure, housing instability, unemployment, and insufficient access to capital, and instead create opportunity across Indian Country. He will ensure federal agencies provide support in ways that is most useful for tribes and honors tribal self-determination.
- Invest in infrastructure and clean energy.
- Invest in small businesses.
- Invest in Native communities by increasing the Indian Community Development Block Grant program.
- Invest in Native agriculture.
- Improve care delivery and coordination throughout IHS.
- Eliminate long-standing healthcare disparities in order to increase quality of life and life expectancy for Native Americans.
- Invest in the Special Diabetes Programs for Indians and other prevention and treatment programs to reduce incidence and improve outcomes of diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, maternal mortality, and more.
- Prioritize and invest in mental and behavioral health, including suicide prevention, addiction, and substance use disorder treatment programs.
- Support language access programs for patients in all care settings.
- Advance health information technology to benefit patients and clinicians.
- Increase broadband access for robust telehealth and wellbeing activities.
- Apply new NEPA regulations to water, broadband, and electric transmission for tribal communities to increase access to infrastructure that supports healthy living.
- Support funding for better water infrastructure in tribal communities.
- Scale and prioritize brownfield clean-up and redevelopment efforts in Indian Country.
- To promote healthy communities, continue to emphasize environmental stewardship.
- Increase and ensure stable funding for the Indian Health Service.
- Ensure access to health coverage.
- Lead a decisive public health response to Covid-19.
- Expand the pipeline of health care providers in tribal communities.
- Deploy telehealth throughout Indian Country.
- Reduce our unacceptably high maternal mortality rate, which disproportionately impacts Native mothers.
- Reauthorize and expand the Special Diabetes Program for Indians.
- Expand access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment.
- Help prevent suicides.
- Tackle social determinants of health.
- Increase Native health data collection and sharing to improve health outcomes.
Working with tribal leaders, President Trump will continue to ensure respect for Native American heritage and will provide children with access to high-quality education options that are consistent with tribal traditions, languages and culture.
Native students endure stark inequities in access to education. They have lower public high school graduation rates than any other racial or ethnic group and are least likely to enroll in and graduate from college. Covid-19 is exacerbating education inequities as schools struggle to reopen safely and Native American students, who have less access to broadband, face additional barriers to learning.
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