NATIVE AMERICANS: Recently, Tribal leaders from across Turtle Island came to the National Congress of American Indians’ Executive Winter Session in Washington, D.C.

They shared their priorities and frustrations with leaders from President Biden’s administration. There was a strong emphasis on recognizing that Native Nations are sovereign entities, and not special interest groups.

During last week’s session, leaders from federal agencies asked for feedback about a new executive order to advance environmental justice, including engaging with Tribes through consultation.

Native communities already face disproportionate environmental health impacts, particularly due to toxic mining and fossil fuel development on public lands.

True environmental justice involves not just Tribal consultation, but meeting the internationally-recognized standard for Free, Prior and Informed Consent from Tribes.

When a project -- such as drilling, mining, or building a pipeline or transmission line -- potentially impacts or threatens Indigenous peoples, they have a right to give or withhold consent to that project. 

Send A Message 

But Free, Prior and Informed Consent is not just about the right to say no to a project and have that answer respected.

It’s also about the federal government including Tribes in meaningful decision-making processes well before any decision is made about lands, resources, or people. That’s how to respect Indigenous peoples’ inherent sovereignty and self-determination.

If the Biden administration is truly prioritizing engaging with Tribes and advancing environmental justice for all, it must also revoke and deny federal permits for environmentally destructive infrastructure projects that local Tribes have been fighting against.

Biden must take immediate action to revoke permits for fossil fuel infrastructure such as the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Line 5 pipeline, and the Willow Project -- and take immediate action to deny permits for toxic mining projects like the Resolution Copper mine in Arizona’s sacred Oak Flat and the Donlin gold mine in Alaska.

Send a message to the White House: To truly advance environmental justice and respect Indigenous sovereignty, the Biden administration must adopt an official standard for Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, and revoke and deny federal permits for projects that Tribes do not consent to.