Indigenous tribes need Biden’s bold plan to fix infrastructure

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The United States Jobs Plan would tackle some of the most neglected aspects of life in the United States, including the harsh conditions that prevail in much of the Indian country. This initiative would repair traditional infrastructure such as dilapidated roads, railways and bridges, and also invest in infrastructure that would fuel future prosperity, such as high-speed internet and power grid upgrades.

The proposal also makes significant investments in people by providing access to education, health care and public safety. The American Jobs Plan is a holistic approach to infrastructure that delivers jobs now while strengthening our communities and investing in hope for generations to come.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the growing awareness of racial injustice make it clear that our country needs to invest in both its muscles and its soul. Both are indispensable in tribal nations and by the country as a whole to create a better world for generations to come.

As President of the Suquamish Tribe and President of the Northwest Indian Affiliate Tribes, my work focuses on the American Indians, who are among the most neglected peoples in the country. Our fates were tied to treaties that promised education, health care, and the right to continue our ways of life and livelihood through fishing and hunting.

Most of the early federal investments were used to evict us from lands coveted by settlers or extractive industries, and to attempt to assimilate us by dividing our reserves into lots, dispersing tribal communities and forcing tribal children (our parents and grandparents) to live in remote areas and often abusive boarding schools.

The promises the United States made to our people in these treaties have been ignored, broken, or both.

Over time, however, the far-sighted tribal leaders, working from their living rooms with few resources, fought policies aimed at undermining and even eliminating the tribes. These leaders opposed federal, state and local policies that fractured tribal economies – which were based on fishing, hunting, and other sustainable harvesting practices – and against policies that neglected health services and d ‘education.

These leaders have made remarkable progress, but the country of India has a long way to go in recovering from generations of federal mismanagement, discriminatory practices, treaty violations and neglect. President Biden’s employment plan is a historic step towards meeting the federal government’s obligations to the Indian country, while making the entire nation more resilient.

Here are some of the many areas where the plan could help transform the Indian country:

  • Health care. The Indian country has one of the most underfunded health care systems in the country, which contributes to the fact that American Indians suffer from some of the worst health problems in the country. Funding for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act helped. My tribe, the Suquamish Tribe, was able to make a down payment for an urgently needed health clinic with funding from the CARES Act. But there is still a long way to go to restore the health of our people. The U.S. Jobs Plan will boost funding for critical infrastructure that supports health facilities, including clean water, sanitation, and broadband.
  • Habitat restoration. Our treaty fishing rights mean little if the species we depend on become extinct. As with the Southern Resident Killer Whales, our lifestyles are threatened by the sharp decline in salmon populations and the pollution of shellfish beds. Infrastructure spending can help salmon populations recover by upgrading failing municipal sewage systems (as in King County), replacing culverts blocking fish, and cleaning up toxic waste sites. This support may also enable the long overdue failure of the lower Snake River dams as part of a recovery strategy for Northwestern salmon.
  • High-speed Internet. Tribal nations are often the last to connect to high-speed internet, and the pandemic has made it clear that connectivity is a lifeline for education, business development and medical services. The Suquamish Tribe leveraged funding from the CARES Act to provide emergency access points to families and students without internet access, and to begin building an internet system that will finally connect tribal housing to broad-based services. bandaged. Biden’s plan promises 100% coverage with high-speed internet, which will be a game-changer for rural communities and tribal nations.
  • Climate change. Global warming poses a threat to all species, including ourselves. Some Indian nations are forced to relocate their villages as the waters rise. Many of us are seeing the devastating effects on fish and shellfish from warming rivers and seas and ocean acidification. The US Jobs Plan would invest in clean transportation, power generation and agriculture that would restore hope for the future while creating well-paying jobs today. Resilient and up-to-date infrastructure means we are all able to better cope with the inevitable climate challenges ahead.
  • Lodging. Forty percent of housing on Indian reserves is inadequate, compared to 6% nationally. The COVID-19 pandemic ravaged tribal nations, in part because many multigenerational families living in the same homes were unable to practice social distancing. The jobs plan would invest in crucial development to ensure that Native Americans and others can access affordable housing.

These are just a few of the priorities of the Suquamish Tribe and other Northwestern tribes to be addressed by the U.S. Jobs Plan, ensuring a better, healthier and more prosperous future for the Indian country and the whole nation.

I call on Congress to partner with President Biden in a bipartisan effort to help the United States and the Indian country begin to heal the wounds of the past and build a future where all people and all species thrive.

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