President Biden yesterday announced further protections for tribal sovereignty and treaty rights, including guidelines for federal agency consultation with tribes. In 2021, Biden signed an executive order directing federal agencies to create MOU’s that strengthen treaty protections and tribal sovereignty. The following statement is from Judith LeBlanc (Caddo), executive director of Native Organizers Alliance.
“Last year, thousands of Native peoples across the country made an urgent call to President Biden to do more to protect our sacred places. Our places of ceremony, food gathering, drinking water, and fishing are at immediate and dire risk from fossil fuel extraction, the climate crisis, and development. Development and extraction often occur without any free, prior, or informed consent of the affected tribal nations. Native communities, traditional leaders, and representatives of sovereign nations joined the Red Road to DC demanding greater protections of our sacred sites.
We urge each federal agency to not only respect treaty rights but acknowledge the great harm done when tribes and Native communities are not given the opportunity to advise and give consent to projects affecting their lands, waters, and resources. It is not enough to check a box to “consult” with tribes with projects like dams, mines, and oil pipelines. The treaties demand that tribes give their consent to these projects. This failure of agencies to gain the free, prior, and informed consent of tribes is a violation of treaty rights and a flawed process that leads to the desecration of our sacred sites.
President Biden’s announcement regarding tribal consultation at the White House Tribal Nations Summit is a step in the right direction. To meet the urgency of this issue, we ultimately need to see consultation with tribes codified as law. The RESPECT Act codifies critical sovereignty and treaty protections. Congress must act immediately to pass the RESPECT Act.
Congress must codify these protections to ensure Native communities regain our inherent and legal right to co-steward and co-manage our lands and waters. If the Biden administration and Congress is to fulfill the promise of respect for sovereignty, the federal government must move towards free, prior, and informed consent. In 2021, more than 80,000 people signed a petition calling for the administration to mandate consultation as a step towards respecting Tribes’ inherent and legal right to consent. Without mandated consent, we will continue to see the desecration of our most sacred places. The desecration of Indigenous sacred places is ongoing, and action is needed today.”