Joe Biden takes office
Biden-Harris plan gives hope to indigenous communities (Press Release)
The upcoming inauguration of future US-President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris next Wednesday gives hope to the country's indigenous people – as the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) concludes from its analysis of the "Biden-Harris Plan for Tribal Nations", which the two presented during the election campaign. "The ideas in the government plan are good news for the beleaguered Tribal Nations of the United States – assuming that they will not only exist on paper," stated Yvonne Bangert, STP expert on indigenous peoples, in Göttingen today. "In any case, the nomination of Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior, the first indigenous minister in the history of the country, is more than a symbolic step. She will be directly responsible for indigenous affairs, and her ministry will be responsible for the administration of public lands and the establishment of protected areas, including decisions on resource extraction." The re-establishment of joint advisory panels of native tribes and the government in Washington raises hopes as well.
However, several major projects of the outgoing Trump administration will be extremely problematic for the next government. "Numerous sacred sites of the country's indigenous communities have already been destroyed or damaged due to the construction of the wall along the southern border of the United States – and it will not be possible to simply stop the ongoing construction work, as there are binding contracts with the companies involved and costs have already been incurred," Bangert said. However, there are massive indigenous protests against the construction of the wall, and Biden has promised to stop it. "It will have to be seen whether it is possible to take down the wall again, and to compensate the construction companies," Bangert added. "Further, the Trump administration has auctioned off oil drilling concessions in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge at the last minute. It will be difficult to withdraw them again."
Given the enormous challenges, the STP expert expects only gradual improvements in the situation of the indigenous communities in the United States, despite the expected improvements. "Of course, Deb Haaland and Joe Biden cannot work magic – and no one expects them to. However, the Democratic majority is a good starting point, at least until the mid-term elections in two years. Also, we expect improvements regarding the cultural aspects of indigenous affairs," Bangert said. "We very much hope that the Biden-Harris administration will use this momentum to show more commitment for indigenous issues and to invest political capital. The new administration will be measured against its ambitious goals."
The text of the Biden-Harris Plan for Tribal Nations can be found here.