> ‘Our policy is nation-to-nation’: Tribes join President Biden for celebration at White House
NATION-TO-NATION: Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, left, greets President Joe Biden of the United States at the White House on September 13, 2022. Photo courtesy Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
‘Our policy is nation-to-nation’
Tribes join President Biden for celebration at White House
Wednesday, September 14, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tribal leaders are looking forward to addressing climate change and improving economic conditions in their communities following the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act
Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
and President Jonathan Nez of the Navajo Nation
were among hundreds of dignitaries who traveled to the White House for a ceremony celebrating the new law on Tuesday. Although President Joe Biden did not specifically mention Indian Country in his remarks about the Inflation Reduction Act
, he reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to the trust and treaty obligation as he worked his way though the large crowd on a sunny afternoon in the nation’s capital.
“Chairman,” the president said in greeting Frazier on the South Lawn at the White House, “Our policy is nation-to-nation.”
The White House: President Biden Hosts an Event Celebrating the Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act
The new law reflects the Biden administration’s policy. Enacted by the 117th Congress through H.R.5376
, the Inflation Reduction Act will bring more than $720 million directly to American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities to help them with climate resiliency, home electrification, drought relief and clean energy initiatives
Additionally, the package expands loan and loan guarantee programs for tribes by historic amounts and ensures that tribes are eligible to apply for competitive grants throughout the federal government. A resource guide recently released by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
describes the opportunities as worth “billions” of dollars
“Today offers proof that the soul of America is vibrant, the future of America is bright, and the promise of America is real,” Biden said at the ceremony. “It is real.”
For the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, whose homelands sit more than 1,500 miles from the White House, the Inflation Reduction Act truly holds promise.
, who relayed the president’s “nation-to-nation” commitment to Indianz.Com, is welcoming the opportunities provided by the law, especially when it comes to clean energy.
Specifically, Cheyenne River will be relying on the gifts of Unci Maka
, or Grandmother Earth, to power a 450MW wind farm on the reservation in South Dakota.
The Ta’teh Topa project
, whose name means “Four Winds” in the Lakota language, is taking advantage of tax credits that can be accessed directly by the tribe, finally putting renewable energy in reach for the community.
“That’s what the Inflation Reduction Act means for Indian Country,” Frazier told Indianz.Com after his exchange with the president.
Similarly, President Nez
of the Navajo Nation hailed the law as a significant sign of progress. He said the Inflation Reduction Act brings yet another influx of resources to the largest reservation in the U.S., following similarly historic investments from COVID-19
and infrastructure packages that have crossed the finish line since Biden took office almost 20 months ago.
“The Navajo Nation has a seat at the table with President Biden and his administration,” Nez said after the ceremony. “The American Rescue Plan Act delivered over $2 billion to the Navajo Nation, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is delivering millions more, and now the Inflation Reduction Act will help our people with drought mitigation, clean energy initiatives, lower prescription costs, and much more.
President Biden’s pledge to uphold the nation-to-nation framework comes as the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe raises alarms about a potential setback in the 117th Congress. In an opinion published on Indianz.Com on Tuesday, Chairman Frazier joined growing criticism of a legislative proposal that would streamline the approval of energy pipelines
Indian Country has long opposed such projects due to negative impacts on human lives, as well as water, air and other natural resources
, many of which are supposed to be protected by treaties and government-to-government agreements.
But not only will tribes and their citizens face more unwanted oil and gas pipelines, they would be unable to stop the developments due to proposed changes in the federal permitting process
that limit public interaction. According to critics — especially Native environmental activists — the proposal sacrifices people for profits that only benefit the energy industry.
“This is real cloak and dagger politics and it’s our communities, our tribal nations, who are under threat,” said Joye Braun,
a Cheyenne River citizen who is a frontline community organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network
. “This bill will gut the consultative and judicial review processes while slashing what little protections we have for clean water, and our ancestral homelands.”
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives
are mobilizing to defeat the changes before they even become a reality. The so-called permitting reforms have surfaced in the U.S. Senate
, where Republicans have greater ability to influence legislative outcomes due to the chamber being evenly split among the two major parties.
“As tribal people, we need to be included in these conversations and immediately have consultation from the beginning because we are supposed to have a government-to-government relationship,” said Jannan Cornstalk, a citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
who serves as director of Water is Life Festival
“Many times that doesn’t happen, and this dirty deal would only deepen the denial of consultation and consent with tribes and others most harmed by polluting extraction projects,” Cornstalk said of the proposal.
After the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law on August 16, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs highlighted by the following investments
in its resource guide for Native communities:
- $235 million for tribal climate resilience, including fish hatchery operations and maintenance
- $225 million for development of tribal high-efficiency electric home rebate programs
- $150 million for tribal home electrification
- $75 million for the Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program, including direct loans to tribes
- $20 billion in allowable loan guarantees under the Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program, a ten-fold increase in investments
- $25 million for Native Hawaiian climate resilience
- $12.5 million for tribal emergency drought relief
Additionally, the White House has begun compiling the ways in which Americans can benefit from the Inflation Reduction Act through tax credits, rebates and other programs. Some of the benefits listed on cleanenergy.gov
can be accessed immediately and others will be available over the coming months and even years.