White House Says American Indians Way Better Off Now Thanks To Obama

Chris White | Energy Reporter

The Interior Department hyped up the White House’ relationship with American Indians even as tribes complain about the Obama administration’s decision to place more land under federal control.

The government must continue to improve “on obtaining timely and thoughtful tribal input, especially as it relates to large infrastructure projects and their impacts on tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights,” Sally Jewell, the Director of the Department of Interior, wrote in a Thursday exit memo.

“Too often, tribes have been an afterthought when it comes to federal policy and programs,” she added, “and the Council has brought to the forefront that upholding our trust and treaty obligations is incumbent upon every single agency.” Jewell also championed the administration’s restoration of “half a million acres of tribal homelands in trust for tribes.”

The land was allocated 1.7 million acre of land back to tribes through the Land Buy-Back Program, allowing American Indians to develop their own land. Jewell’s memo comes on the heels of President Barack Obama’s recent decision to designated millions of acres of land as national monuments, which drew criticism from tribal regions in the Southwest.

Obama created the Bears Ears and Gold Butte national monuments in December using his powers under the Antiquities Act — portions of Utah and Nevada are included in the designations.

The White House etched out the 1.47 million acres of land despite fierce opposition from some local Navajo tribal members, who are concerned the designations will impact their ability to collect firewood and way of life.

Two Navajo subgroups who live closest to the monument, the Aneth Chapter and the Blue Mountain Diné, oppose the national monument designations.

“Our people have used the land for generations,” Marie Holliday of the Najavo tribe told the Daily Signal in September before the announcement.

She added: “With my grandmother before she died, we would go across the San Juan River to graze [livestock]. In the fall, people start to go out there to get firewood to heat their homes for winter. We use the herbal plants that grow there to heal sickness. A lot of our ancestral ruins are buried there. It really is a beautiful place.”

The president has placed nearly 265 million acres of land underneath federal control during his two terms in o
Obama claimed the monuments were no different from those passed by House lawmakers earlier this year, which were, in fact, smaller than the ones designated by the president.

Tribes living near Bears Ears prefer the land be co-managed. The administration created a Bears Ears Commission giving tribes a voice in managing the monument, even tough only states can create such commissions.

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Tags : barack obama bears ears national monument interior department sally jewell
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