Vice President Kamala Harris has said that the US “must not shy away” from the “shameful past” of how the first European explorers “ushered in a wave of devastation for tribal nations.”
Harris made the comments Tuesday to the National Congress of American Indians, saying it was “an honor” to address them “as we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” the newly recognized name for Columbus Day.
“Since 1934, every October the United States has recognized the voyage of the European explorers who first landed on the shores of the Americans,” she said.
“But that is not the whole story. That has never been the whole story.
“Those explorers ushered in a wave of devastation for Tribal nations — perpetrating violence, stealing land, and spreading disease,” she said.
“We must not shy away from this shameful past, and we must shed light on it and do everything we can to address the impact of the past on native communities today,” she said.
“Native Americans are more likely to live in poverty, to be unemployed, and often struggle to get quality health care and to find affordable housing,” she told the group, the largest US organization for native peoples.
“This persistent inequity, this persistent injustice, is not right. And the pandemic has only made it worse,’ she added.
“I believe strongly that we now have a chance to change things, to improve things — to be better,” she claimed.
As such, the Biden administration would renegotiate a memo of understanding about federal funding for job training on tribal lands with tribal nations, she said.
The memo was renegotiated in 2018 between 12 federal agencies but without input from the tribal nations affected.
Biden also signed an executive order designed to help Native American communities with educational and economic opportunities.
Harris also claimed that the president’s Build Back Better agenda will have “a significant impact on Indian Country.”
“I believe strongly that we right now have a chance to change things, to improve things, to be better for this generation and for the seven generations to come,” she said, referring to a Native American belief that we should make decisions now based on how they will impact the future seven generations.
Biden this year became the first president to formally recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
With Post wires