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Indian Country

Achieving Autonomy for Tribal Nations & Enhancing Opportunities for Native People to Thrive

The United States’ relationship with other sovereign nations should be guided by robust, meaningful, and respectful diplomacy. The United States has recognized a Nation-to-Nation relationship with over 570 Tribal Nations. The federal government needs to reset its relationships and re-engage in active diplomacy based on the recognition of tribal sovereignty and the United States’ sacred trust relationship and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations.

Acknowledging these shameful failures in our relationship with Tribal Nations and recommitting our energies toward active diplomacy are the best ways to heal and move forward together.

Our country’s initial interactions with Tribal Nations were founded on diplomacy and recognition of sovereignty. But as many dark chapters in our history with Tribal Nations show, the U.S. government ignored that foundation. The forced removal of Tribal Nations from their lands, the stealing of Native children from their families and communities, and the banning of tribal religions and cultural practices are all products of federal policies that abandoned diplomacy in favor of heavy-handed and unilateral action meant to assimilate or dispossess Native people, or both. Acknowledging these shameful failures in our relationship with Tribal Nations and recommitting our energies toward active diplomacy are the best way to heal and move forward together.

Active diplomacy is critical in Indian Country because there is no “one size fits all” approach to the diverse challenges and immense opportunities that span across Tribal Nations. The solutions that work for Alaskan Natives may not be applicable to urban Native communities in cities like Cleveland or Seattle. The solutions best for Tribal Nations in southern California are probably not the same as those best for the Tribal Nation in Iowa. That is why we must engage in dialogue across Indian Country to create local and unique policies that are driven by Tribal Nations and Native communities themselves.

We must engage in dialogue across Indian Country to create local and unique policies that are driven by Tribal Nations and Native communities themselves.

Mayor Pete recognizes that the true spirit of the Nation-to-Nation relationship with Tribal Nations is active diplomacy based on equal dignity and respect. This engaged dialogue and consultation will allow the federal government to deploy resources, solutions, and policies in coordination with, rather than at, Indian Country. The federal government’s objective in its federal Indian policy should be to empower Tribal Nations to succeed while fulfilling its responsibility to Indian Country and protecting treaty-enshrined rights to tribal communities.

Pete’s policy toward Indian Country is built on the following pillars:

Sovereignty & Trust

Pete will respect tribal sovereignty and promote the rights of Tribal Nations and Native peoples to self-govern and protect their lands and citizens. He will keep faith with the federal government’s treaty obligations as well as respect and, wherever possible, defer to tribal law when it comes to implementation and administration of federal programs on tribal lands.

As President, Pete will honor the Nation-to-Nation relationship and fulfill the United States’ trust responsibility to tribes and tribal members. He is committed to instituting meaningful reforms to the management and administration of the trust lands and other trust assets belonging to tribes and Native people, and will seek equitable resolution of ongoing litigation stemming from past controversies over the accounting of trust assets. Wherever feasible, Pete will enhance the authority of Tribal Nations to manage and administer their own lands.

In order for the United States to live up to our Constitution, Pete believes that it is necessary to recognize tribal sovereignty and to construct better practices to ensure Nation-to-Nation relations. To do this, he will:

  • Reinstate a Nation-to-Nation relationship respecting free, prior, and informed consent.
  • Appoint a Senior Native American Advisor on White House staff and require federal agencies to appoint tribal member diplomatic officials in respective Offices of the Secretary.
  • Create an Office of Native Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget to ensure proper expertise in administration-wide efforts to uphold treaty obligations and ensure those obligations are fully funded.
  • Restore the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, host the first-ever tribal state dinner, and regularly host regional convenings with tribal leaders.
  • Honor treaty commitments to Tribal Nations.
  • Use the platform of the presidency to not only speak out against hurtful stereotypes, but also promote and celebrate Native history and culture.

Economic Development

Pete understands that tribes cannot be fully autonomous until they have full authority over their lands, enabling them to raise revenue, spur economic development, and achieve self-sufficiency. Pete recognizes that many parts of Indian Country have stagnant economic growth, high unemployment, high poverty, and low-paying jobs. Pete supports a comprehensive approach to investing in the physical, human, and institutional infrastructure to remove barriers to development, increase investment, and allow for a more productive Nation-to-Nation relationship between the federal government and tribes. Specifically, he will:

  • Recognize the authority of Indian tribes to tax activities on their lands in support of tribal self-sufficiency and government services.
  • Propose a clean Carcieri fix and amend the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act to clarify the Secretary of the Interior's authority.
  • Uphold tribal decisions about their land to prevent the next Standing Rock.
  • Work with Congress to update the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act to remove requirements for tribes to seek permission before they develop their land.
  • Make a major federal investment in clean water and wastewater infrastructure, transportation and mobility, and climate adaptation and resilience.
  • Create a national network of apprenticeships.
  • Ensure full high-speed broadband coverage in Indian Country as part of his $80 billion Internet For All initiative.
  • Invest in public and community-based broadband options to guarantee that broadband will be built out, especially in regions that private companies won’t cover.
  • Create new paid opportunities for young people to meaningfully engage in their communities through a new National Service Plan that will directly support Indian Country.

Justice & Voting Rights

Tribal sovereignty means being able to access the resources and protections needed to support tribal citizens. Tribal Nations are often blocked by courts when attempting to protect their land bases and community members. Pete will ensure Tribal Nations have the means to protect their people and land, including by affirming tribal jurisdiction over all reservation activity. Additionally, he will:

  • Push Congress for a statutory Oliphant fix to affirm tribal jurisdiction over all reservation activity and fully fund tribal judges.
  • Within his first 100 days in office, appoint a commission dedicated to the study of the crisis on missing and murdered indigenous women.
  • Work with Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
  • Protect voting rights on tribal lands.
  • Strive to put forth Native American judicial nominees to diversify the experiences on the federal bench.


Stressors caused by the historical oppression, neglect, and intergenerational trauma of Native Americans have contributed to poverty, housing issues, education challenges, violence, and job discrimination that affect the health and well-being of individuals within these communities. Compared to all Americans, Native Americans are more likely to die by suicide than any other racial or ethnic group in the U.S., 50% more likely to have a substance use disorder, and over six times more likely to die from alcohol-related diseases.Leavitt, Rachel A., Allison Ertl, Kameron Sheats, Emiko Petrosky, Asha Ivey-Stephenson, Katherine A. Fowler​ Suicides Among American Indian/Alaska Natives — National Violent Death Reporting System, 18 States, 2003–2014​ Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 67, no. 8 (March 2, 2018): 237-242.​​​​Siddons, Andrew “The Never-Ending Crisis at the Indian Health Service.” Roll Call. March 5, 2018.​​Fact Sheets: Indian Health Disparities.” Indian Health Service. October 2019. Native women are 2.5 times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause compared to white women.Rabin, Roni Caryn. “Huge Racial Disparities Found in Deaths Linked to Pregnancy.” The New York Times. May 7, 2019. Native Americans’ life expectancy in some states is 20 years shorter than the national average, and they have the lowest survival rates for most cancers of any U.S. subpopulation, in part because of late detection.National Cancer Institute Staff. “Cancer Control in American Indian and Alaska Native Populations: A Conversation with Dr. Shobha Srinivasan.” National Cancer Institute. April 25, 2018.Whitney, Eric. “Native Americans Feel Invisible in US Health Care System.” NPR. April 12, 2017.

Pete believes that who you are or where you live should not determine how healthy you can be. To make Native communities healthier, he will:

  • Ensure that the Indian Health Service (IHS) is fully funded through mandatory appropriations.
  • Tackle the crisis of mental illness and addiction in Native communities.
  • Launch a National Health Equity Strategy and integrate it into the mission of every federal agency, including the IHS.
  • Improve maternal and infant health, with an intentional focus on eliminating racial disparities.
  • Expand trauma-informed care in Native communities.
  • Support research funding for American Indians and Alaska Natives population health indicators.


Education is essential to providing every Native American child the opportunity to thrive and build a better future. Yet today, too many Native children are denied educational justice. From inadequate resources and school infrastructure to critical teacher shortages, Native Americans are far too often not afforded the same educational opportunities as their white peers.Green, Erica L. and Annie Waldman. “'I Feel Invisible': Native Students Languish in Public Schools.” The New York Times. The New York Times, December 28, 2018. As President, Pete will honor treaties and federal law to provide tribes with the educational resources they need and ensure that every child can succeed. Specifically, he will:

  • Invest in the availability, infrastructure, and workforce of high-quality early learning and care by building on Head Start and Early Head Start programs to expand access for families in need.
  • Expand funding for Bureau of Indian Education schools.
  • Close the Tribal School Broadband Gap.
  • Invest in Tribal College and Universities.
  • Make public college tuition and basic living expenses free for the lowest-income students and provide free tuition to middle-class students.

Climate & Natural Resources

The ability of Tribal Nations to maintain their land and natural resources is fundamental to their political and economic self-determination and self-sufficiency.Protect Tribal Natural Resources.” Native American Rights Fund. Climate change threatens the ability of Tribal Nations to protect and preserve their land, air, and water for future generations. Pete will recognize the right of Tribal Nations to regulate their entire reservation communities. He will also:

  • Restore federal protection to the Bears Ears National Monument and prevent further energy development and mining on other sacred places.
  • Sign an Executive Order requiring all federal agencies to consider treaty rights when developing actions that affect access to natural resources.
  • Support access to financial and technical resources to assess the impacts of climate change and develop meaningful adaptation and mitigation plans, since climate change disproportionately affects Tribal Nations.
  • Work closely with federally-recognized tribes and other Native communities to ensure that they benefit from the clean energy transition by creating Regional Resilience Hubs on or near Indian Country.

For too long, the U.S. government has failed to consider not only the future of Indian Country, but the present. Tribal Nations should have a partner in the federal government. If you’re with us, text INDIAN COUNTRY to 25859.

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