After years of failure, it’s finally time for Washington to fully recognize its historic and ongoing trust and treaty obligations to Tribal Nations.
For generations, the federal government robbed Native Americans of over a billion acres of land, suppressed their languages and cultures, and literally stole children from communities in an effort to eradicate entire cultures. It’s a history of violence, theft, and broken promises.
Despite this history, Tribal Nations and indigenous peoples have proven resilient, and continue to contribute to a country that took so much and keeps asking for more.
But Washington must do better, including by…
- Ending the corruption that empowers giant corporate interests to desecrate Native American sacred sites and violate Tribal treaty rights
- Protecting historic monuments and public lands
- Taking steps to stop violence against Native people, especially women and girls
- Ending the neglect that allows Congress to chip away at nutrition assistance, health care, education funding, and other programs
And to truly make big, structural change, we must ensure that America’s sacred trust and treaty obligations are binding legal and moral principles — not merely slogans.
That’s why I’ve teamed up with Representative Deb Haaland, one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress, on a proposal called the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act. And it’s why I’ve put forward a set of additional ideas to uphold the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations with Tribal Nations and to empower Native communities.
Washington owes Native communities a fighting chance to build stronger communities and a brighter future. Read more here about how we can make this happen.
I have fought for a brighter future for Tribal Nations during my time in the Senate, and I’m proud to come together on this proposal with Representative Haaland in the House. And when we take the White House, here’s what I’ll work on as president:
1. Guaranteeing vital resources: Our bill will ensure predictable, guaranteed funding for vital programs for Indian Country — no matter the circumstances in Washington. Trust and treaty obligations do not vanish because of political games, and funding these programs is not optional.
2. Elevating Tribal priorities to the highest levels of federal government: I know that when it comes to government decisions, it matters who’s in the room — and what authority they have. As president, I will establish a permanent, statutory White House Council on Native American Affairs and create a new White House Budgetary Office of Tribal Affairs to track government-wide progress on Native and indigenous programs.
3. Economic development: We will invest in the physical, digital, and financial infrastructure that Native communities need to sustain economic development. From ensuring access to safe drinking water to building fiber broadband connections, it is time for new government policies to empower Native families to thrive economically.
4. New economic opportunities: We also need to respect tribal jurisdiction over tribal businesses and promote forward-looking efforts to ensure full access to new economic opportunities. For example, a number of Tribal Nations view cannabis as an important economic opportunity. I support full marijuana legalization and have advanced the STATES Act, a proposal that would safeguard the ability of Tribal Nations to make their own marijuana policies.
5. Housing: The housing crisis in Indian Country isn’t new, but its severity is shocking. In far too many places, extreme overcrowding is the norm. My housing plan would substantially expand the Indian Housing Block Grant to $2.5 billion and build or rehabilitate 200,000 homes.
6. Health care: I am calling for a new commitment to Native health — one that replaces the current, chronically underfunded regime with one that guarantees funding for all necessary services, ensures access to adequate medical providers throughout Tribal lands, and includes specific programs designed to zero in on behavioral health and chronic disease issues. And when we achieve Medicare for All, coverage disparities for Native populations can be eliminated.
We also need to ensure new resources to combat substance use disorder, empower tribes to resolve the suicide crisis, and address childhood trauma. I have advanced several legislative proposals to address these issues, from the CARE ACT to the American Indian and Alaska Native Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.
7. Education: We will involve Tribal governments as the local administrators of Universal Child Care, fully fund Bureau of Indian Education Schools, and ensure that all students understand the important place Native Nations occupy in American history. Our plan for universal free college would also make it possible for students at Tribal Colleges and Universities to graduate without paying a dime in tuition or fees.
8. Honoring Native veterans: Native Americans serve in the military at among the highest rates in the country. We should honor this service and guarantee that Native veterans receive the services they have earned, including housing assistance to combat the disproportionate risk of homelessness for Native veterans.
9. Public safety and criminal justice: Washington has refused to fully respect tribal sovereignty in criminal justice matters. This has deprived countless crime victims of the opportunity to get justice and fed the ongoing epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women.
In 2013, the Violence Against Women Act crucially recognized some criminal jurisdiction by Tribal Nations, but we need to go further. I support a full Oliphant fix to fully recognize the inherent jurisdiction of tribes over their sovereign territory and end the circumstances that effectively immunize crimes on Tribal lands. And we need to provide tribal authorities sufficient funding to provide robust legal systems that deliver justice for victims and due process to criminal defendants.
10. Tribal lands and tribal sovereignty: Washington must stop putting the interests of companies that want to exploit our environment ahead of the interests of Native people who seek to preserve their sacred sites. As president, I will expand federally protected land that is important to tribes and protect historic monuments and sacred sites from companies that see it as just another place to drill or mine. I will revoke the improperly granted permits for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and make respect for sacred tribal religious interests the law of the land by passing a new Sacred Lands Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
11. Voting rights: We must ensure that Native people have full and equal access to our democracy — including making voting convenient and secure and wiping out laws that suppress the vote. I have proposed sweeping reforms to achieve this, and will continue advocating for the Native American Voting Rights Act to combat festering discriminatory practices.
These proposals aren’t the last word on everything we’ll need to do. As president, I’m committed to continuing to engage and work with Native communities — to make sure we do everything we can to support Tribal Nations and indigenous peoples.
And we’ll fight side by side as a grassroots movement to live up to our commitments as a country. You can read more details on these proposals here.
Thanks for being a part of this,