Biden Signs Public Safety Order Targeting Human Trafficking And Crime On Native LandsJanuary 16, 2022
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday ordered several Cabinet departments to work together to combat human trafficking and crime on Native lands, where violent crime rates are more than double the national average.
Speaking at a White House summit on tribal nations, Biden signed an executive order tasking the Justice, Homeland Security and Interior departments with pursuing strategies to reduce crime. Biden also asked the departments to work to strengthen participation in Amber Alert programs and national training programs for federal agents, and appoint a liaison who can speak with family members and to advocates.
The administration also announced plans to pursue a 20-year ban on oil and gas drilling in Chaco Canyon, an ancient Native American heritage site in northwestern New Mexico.
“We have to continue to stand up for the dignity and sovereignty of tribal nations,” Biden said at the first tribal nations summit since 2016. The two-day summit was being held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected Indigenous peoples at disproportionate rates.
American Indians and Alaska Natives are more than twice as likely to be victims of a violent crime and Native American women are at least two times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted compared to other races, according to the Association on American Indian Affairs.
On the cultural front, the administration announced a long-sought action to protect Chaco Canyon, a national park and UNESCO World Heritage site northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the Bureau of Land Management will begin to study the possible withdrawal for a period of 20 years from federal lands within a 10-mile (16-kilometer) radius of Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Such a move would bar new federal oil and gas leasing and development on those lands. Those lands will not be eligible for leasing while the study is underway, though past administrations had already opted to impose the buffer administratively.
Environmentalists and some tribes have complained that such a move is temporary and that permanent protections are needed. But it isn’t so simple; while some tribes have fought for protections, the Navajo Nation, which has more to lose by curbing oil and gas, has asked for a smaller radius around the site, an ancient center of Pueblo culture.