Land is Life, a diverse, Indigenous-led, international coalition working to advance the self-determination and collective rights of Indigenous peoples, has rolled out four major global challenges it wants the Biden administration to urgently bring to their knees.
In an open letter dated January 22 in which it congratulated President Biden and Vice President Harris on their historic election, the group charged them to scale-up efforts to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, reduce global conflicts, respond to challenges presented by global climate change and restore the ecological integrity of the Earth.
According to the open letter, ‘’as we begin the work of Building Back Better, we are confident that you and Vice President Harris recognize and will honour the fundamental role of indigenous peoples in addressing the world’s most urgent challenges, including: global climate change, biodiversity loss, extreme poverty, and other social and environmental conflicts.
‘’The Trump administration has done enormous harm over the past four years to the relationship between the US government and indigenous peoples not only in the United States, but around the world. It is of utmost importance that your administration and the 117th Congress take urgent action to repair this damage.
‘’Domestically, this means restoring government to government relations with tribes, honouring the government’s treaty and trust obligations, investing in tribal health, education and economic development programmes, and promoting tribal sovereignty and self-determination.
‘’Internationally, the United States must become a champion for indigenous peoples’ rights and, in our foreign policy and foreign assistance, engage indigenous peoples as partners – through their own social, political and legal institutions – in addressing the world’s most urgent challenges and in advancing security, prosperity, sustainability, and peace.
‘’As we begin the work of Building Back Better, we humbly, hopefully, and insistently urge your administration to carry out the following actions in the first 100 days of your Presidency: Draft a National Action Plan for implementation of the United Nations Declaration on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
‘’Halt all energy and infrastructure development – including the seismic permitting and lease sales – in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and secure permanent protection for the Coastal Plain of the Refuge, on which several indigenous peoples such as the Gwich’in depend.
‘’Secure permanent protection for Mauna Kea, Bears Ears National Monument, and Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument.
‘’Resume annual White House Tribal Nations Conferences as were held during the Obama/Biden Administration.
‘’Re-engage and revitalise the Trilateral Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls (US, Canada, Mexico).
‘’Commit to engaging and supporting the work of United Nations bodies that address indigenous peoples’ rights: UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the UN Expert Mechanism on the
‘’Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and provide funding for the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples.
‘’Make Indigenous Peoples’ issues a standing agenda item at the UN Security Council.
‘’Commit to transforming USAID’s development model to one that is based on human rights, a model that – with regard to indigenous peoples – invests in strengthening their collective rights to lands, territories and resources, recognizes and respects their right to Self Determination, and embraces a standard of Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
‘’Confirm that Indigenous Peoples will have a prominent, meaningful space in the 2021 Global Summit for Democracy.
‘’Pardon, and free Leonard Peltier.’’
Land is Life says nominating a daughter of the Laguna Pueblo, Rep. Deb Haaland, as the Secretary of the Department of Interior is an inspired, important choice. ‘’We believe that she is uniquely qualified for this position, and we are confident that she has the vision and wisdom that is needed to usher in a new era of true government to government relations between the United States and Native American Nations; an era that not only recognizes, but celebrates the role of Native Americans in creating a stronger, more sustainable, more resilient USA.
‘’Revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline on your first day in office also fills us with hope but, as you know, there is so much more work to do.
‘’As you asserted in your inaugural address to the nation, ‘there’s much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain.’ For Indigenous Peoples, these words carry enormous significance. Only a strong resolve, together with bold and visionary actions, will enact systemic change, and stop the long historical process of dispossession of indigenous lands and violations of their rights.
‘’Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in US history, said during your inauguration ceremony, ‘while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.’ President Biden, you have the unique opportunity and power to change history and set strong foundations to begin moving towards a future where indigenous peoples are allowed to assume their rightful role as partners in creating a more just and sustainable world; where they are self-determined, and their collective rights to territories, resources and knowledge are recognized and respected.’’
The coalition declared that it is prepared and motivated to collaborate with the Biden administration in moving forward, towards a brighter future.
Messrs Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine, Brian Keane, Marcos Terena, Casey Box Cecilia, and Baltazar Yucailla, endorsed the open letter on behalf of Land is Life.
The coalition holds strongly that indigenous peoples and their representative organisations play a central role in its governance structure, which ensures that it focuses on priorities identified by Indigenous peoples themselves.