Biden to protect Native American heritage site, boost safety

WASHINGTON, President Joe Biden ordered Monday that several Cabinet departments work together to combat human trafficking, crime and violence on Native lands. These lands are home to more than twice the national average for violent crime.

Biden to protect Native American heritage site, boost safety

WASHINGTON, President Joe Biden ordered Monday that several Cabinet departments work together to combat human trafficking, crime and violence on Native lands. These lands are home to more than twice the national average for violent crime.

Biden signed an executive directive directing the Justice, Homeland Security, and Interior departments to pursue strategies to reduce crime while speaking at a White House summit about tribal nations. Biden asked the departments to increase participation in Amber Alert and national training programs federal agents and to appoint a liaison to speak with families and advocates.

The administration also announced that it would seek a 20 year ban on oil drilling in Chaco Canyon (an ancient Native American heritage site located in northern New Mexico).

Biden stated that "We must continue to stand up to defend the dignity and sovereignty tribal nations," at the first summit of tribal nations since 2016. This summit, lasting two days, was held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic which has disproportionately affected Indigenous peoples.

According to the Association on American Indian Affairs, American Indians and Alaska Natives are more than twice as likely to become victims of violent crime . Native American women are at most two times more likely than other races to be raped and sexually assaulted.

The administration also announced a long-awaited action to protect Chaco Canyon a national park, UNESCO World Heritage Site, northwest of Albuquerque.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland stated that the Bureau of Land Management would study possible withdrawals for a period of twenty years from federal lands located within a 10-mile (16 km) radius of Chaco Culture National Historical Park. This would prohibit federal oil and natural gas leasing or development on these lands. These lands won't be eligible for leasing during the study, although past administrations have imposed the buffer administratively.

Some tribes and environmentalists complain that this is a temporary move and that they need permanent protections. It's not so easy. While some tribes have fought to protect the site, the Navajo Nation has asked for a smaller area around the site. This is an ancient center for Pueblo culture.

"Chaco Canyon holds deep meaning to the Indigenous peoples who lived, worked and thrived there for their ancestors," Haaland said. He was the first Native American to head the Interior Department, a powerful federal agency that has influenced U.S. tribes for many generations. Haaland is part of the Laguna Pueblo.

She stated that "now is the right time to think about more enduring protections of the living landscape that's Chaco, so we can pass this rich cultural heritage to future generations." Before being narrowly confirmed by Senate, the secretary represented New Mexico's Chaco Canyon in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Jill Biden, a teacher of English, was the first lady and addressed the summit about the importance to preserve Native languages. On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris would speak.

The White House is hosting the inaugural summit of tribal nations. Leaders from more than 570 tribes are expected to attend. The summit was not held under Trump's administration. Previous conferences were held at the Interior Department.

Biden took several steps since was elected to office in January. The White House said that these actions demonstrate his support for tribal nations.

They include naming Haaland the Interior Department's head. The White House stated that his coronavirus relief program included $31 million for tribal communities and that the administration worked closely with tribal leaders in order to make COVID-19 rates among Native Americans the highest in the nation.

Amber Kanazbah Crotty, Navajo Nation Council Delegate, said that she hoped the summit would reduce red tape in building infrastructure on tribal lands.

Biden also addressed infrastructure, specifically to point out that the $1 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Bill he signed into law Monday afternoon would direct $13 Billion to Native American communities to provide high-speed Internet and clean drinking water.

Biden was recently the first president to issue a Proclamation declaring Oct. 11 Indigenous Peoples Day. This proclamation is a significant step forward in long-standing efforts to reorient the federal holiday that celebrates Christopher Columbus towards Native Americans.

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