July 14, 2016

2016 Democratic Platform Calls for Environmental Justice and Economic Development in Indian Country

Holland & Knight Native American Law Blog
Kayla Gebeck Carroll

On July 1, the national Democratic party released its draft of the 2016 Democratic Platform. It builds upon various initiatives made by the Obama Administration to promote economic development, create employment opportunities, and restore a deeper government-to-government relationship between tribal nations and the federal government.

The Indian Country portions of the platform call for continued attention to and promotion of the well-being of Native American and Alaska Native youth by investing in Indian education and creating employment opportunities, the restoration of tribal lands, identification of solutions to combat chronic underfunding, and the extension of tribal jurisdiction over crimes committed against tribal citizens on tribal lands.

The platform embraces the goals of the Paris Accord and the North American climate, clean energy, and environment partnership between the United States, Canada, and Mexico by placing top priority on investment in wind, solar and other clean energy jobs on tribal lands, improving air quality and public health in tribal communities, asserting tribal priorities over tribal resources, improving accountability through active participation of tribes in the decision making process, and implementing stronger enforcement mechanisms.

Building Momentum for 2016 Democratic Platform

Many tribal advocates are seeking to ensure that advancements in Indian Country made during the Obama Administration continue into the next Administration. Below is an overview of some of the most recent efforts to create awareness and work collaboratively with tribes to address climate change and environmental justice in Indian Country and investment in renewable energy.

Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development

The Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations act allocated $9.1 million to the Department of Interior Office of Indian Education and Economic Development to invest in energy and mineral development projects in Indian Country.

For more information, please read Interior’s IEED Office Rolls Out $9.1 Million in Tribal Energy Development Grants.

Congressional Roundtable on Environmental Justice in Indian Country

On June 14, Congressman Raul Ruiz (D-CA) and tribal leaders discussed ways Congress can work with Indian Country to overcome challenges faced in environmental mitigation efforts, especially when development has a negative impact on tribal lands, trust resources, and the health and well-being of tribal members. Congressman Ruiz was joined by Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-FL), Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA), Lisa Evans, Senior Administrative Counsel at Earth Justice, and representatives from the St. Regis Mohawk, Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, and the Navajo Nation. Attendees spoke to the importance of protecting sacred sites and traditional subsistence practices, asserting tribal priorities over tribal resources, and codifying procedures for effective consultation and coordination between federal agencies and federally recognized tribes.

For more information, please read Congressman Ruiz Collaborates with Indian Country to Address Environmental Injustice Concerns.

National Congress of American Indians Holds Transboundary Water Roundtable

On June 27, the National Congress of American Indians held a tribal and federal government transboundary roundtable at its midyear conference in Spokane, Washington. With limited time before a new president takes office, Jane Nashida, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of International and Tribal Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and JoAnn Chase, Director, American Indian Environmental Office, EPA are working to ensure that the EPA transition plan advances efforts initiated during the Obama Administration and concerns of tribal leaders that have yet to be addressed. Attendees called for a new paradigm shift in thinking about climate change, adaptation, and mitigation and encouraged the implementation of policies that support long-term engagement, multinational consultation, and coordination throughout all stages of development.

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