The proposals were outlined in a three-page policy pitch the White House released this week, titled “Putting America’s First Peoples First — Forgotten No More!”
The document outlined five core principles President Trump has said he uses to fight for Indian Country, as well as 10 bullet-point promises for the future.
The administration pledged to ensure safer communities, set policies that would foster 51,000 new Native American-owned businesses, improve infrastructure and digital connectivity, promote tribal economic self-determination, increase federal investment in tribal colleges and universities, respect Native American culture by prioritizing repatriation of remains and cultural artifacts, provide high-quality education options for children, host a summit of national tribal leaders, ensure better care through the Indian Health Service and honor Native Americans’ tradition of military service.
Health care is an important component: Already shrinking Native American communities have been hit disproportionately hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez told USA Today on Wednesday that he blamed the federal government’s response.
“I am sure if the federal government had intervened a lot quicker, things would have been a lot better,” Nez said. “It’s obvious there was a lack of support.”
Tribes have also been plagued by an epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous persons as well as opioid and meth crises.
In addition, rural and often remote tribal lands have limited access to broadcast and electric lines, though not all of them want changes because of concern over potential negative environmental impacts.
Trump also pledged $10 million to create new tribal charter schools and hand out school choice scholarships and promised to increase funding to some native-language programs by 25%.
According to AZ Central, during a call with Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer and Cherokee Nation’s Oklahoma Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin, senior administration officials went over the commitments point-by-point and heralded several previous accomplishments such as the repatriation of human remains and funerary artifacts to Pueblo tribes and legislation recognizing six Virginia tribes and Savanna’s Act.
Savanna’s Act was created to strengthen law enforcement responses to missing and murdered indigenous persons’ cases.
The officials also touted $8 billion of disbursements to tribes battling COVID-19 and the U.S. Justice Department’s more than $295 million in grants for tribes.
Lizer, the Navajo vice president, reportedly lauded the president’s efforts and commitment to long-term issues for Indian Country.
Trump’s plan contains some similarities to that of Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who released his own policy platform at the beginning of the month.
The 15-page “Biden-Harris Plan For Tribal Nations” hits on eight key promises including strengthening nation-to-nation relationships, providing quality health care, restoring tribal lands and addressing climate change, ensuring the safety of native communities, expanding economic opportunity, investing in education, commemorating native veterans and ensuring Native Americans can exercise their right to vote.
Members of Arizona’s Navajo Nation had brought a lawsuit alleging that their voters would be disenfranchised by requirements that ballots be received by 7 p.m. GMT on Election Day, citing U.S. Postal service delivery concerns.
However, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded they had no legal standing to ask for an extension
The Biden-Harris plan would restore the Voting Rights Act, appoint legal leaders who would challenge laws designed to suppress the Native American vote, and establish a Native American Voting Rights Task Force aiming to ensure equal access to voter registration and polling sites.
As The New Republic reported, Native American voters are a critical bloc in several swing states including Arizona and Nevada. Polling data in both states show the former vice president carrying the lead, with margins of more than 3 and 5 percentage points respectively.