The Biden administration is set to announce a memorandum of understanding from 18 federal agencies to protect tribal treaty rights. The MOU’s from the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Commerce, Education, Energy, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, State, and the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Personnel Management, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the Council on Environmental Quality are ordered to issue reports on their efforts to strengthen treaty protections within the next 180 days.
President Biden’s announcement comes after a journey thousands of miles across Indian Country, and countless prayers offered from Native peoples across the nation, that the federal government do more to protect our most sacred places. Our people have spoken across Indian Country, saying enough is enough. Our sacred sites must be protected and our treaty rights upheld.
More than 85,000 people signed a petition calling on President Biden to direct federal agencies to uphold the treaties and gain the consent of tribes in infrastructure and development projects.
We urge each agency to craft an MOU that not only respects treaty rights but acknowledges the great harm done when tribes and Native peoples are not given the opportunity to 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.
For generations, the federal government has failed to follow through on its commitment to tribes. This failure has led to the destruction and desecration of our sacred lands, waters, and resources. Promises were made to our ancestors but never kept. We are hopeful that today’s announcement directing federal agencies to strengthen treaty protections is a critical step towards upholding our tribal treaty rights.