Fighting for the Rights of Indigenous People

  • Historical Implications 

    • The United States is built on Indigenous lands. Even though the U.S. government has signed countless treaties with Indigenous Nations, these treaties often were signed through coercive means.

      • The United States government has gone on to violate these treaties time and time again. The U.S. Constitutions actually regard treaties as “the law of the land,” meaning that if a treaty is violated, the United States Constitution is also being violated. This means that for literally centuries, the U.S. government has been violating the constitutional rights of Indigenous people. This is not ancient history. The government is constantly attempting to erase, silence, and oppress Indigenous people. 

      • #NoDAPL Movement and Pipeline Struggles:

        • The U.S. Government is constantly approving permits to build oil pipelines through Indigenous land. The question is not if oil pipelines will leak, it is when and how badly. These pipelines are putting Indigenous communities at an especially high risk, since the government is attempting to destroy their sources of water, and the small pieces of land that they still own. This construction is a clear violation of many treaties, and the federal government must take responsibility for the forced development on these lands, and immediately stop the construction/use of these pipelines and instate a Green New Deal. Here is a list of related struggles to DAPL.

      • The Mashpee Wampanoag people: 

        • On March 27th of this year, during the midst of a global pandemic, the Secretary of the Interior informed the Mashpee Wampanoag people that their land would be taken out of trust. This means that the small level of autonomy that this group gained in 2015, the right to “tax, develop, and manage the land,” would be taken away from them. This decision was justified by the federal government by a false interpretation of the court case, as well as “on whether the tribe could be considered “Indian” under the 1934 [Indian Reorganization Act],” according to Associated Press. The Mashpee Wampanoag people have lived in the same region for 12,000 years. The Mashpee Wampanoag currently have .5% of their former land, and the federal government is currently attempting to take away the Tribe’s autonomy. Sign this petition, organized by the Mashpee Wampanoag people, to support them in gaining back their trust.

    • Done Waiting believes we must move away from the condescending, oppressive, paternalistic relationship the government has had with Indigenous communities for so long. This means current treaties must be honored, and the autonomy that is owed these communities must be returned through realigned prosecutorial jurisdiction, increased funding and access to resources, as well as a relationship with self-appointed Indigenous leadership in both rural and urban spaces.

  • Environmental Protection

    • Indigenous people face a disproportionate impact on their health due to environmental causes. A huge factor at play is the creation of “sacrifice zones,” essentially an area of land that has been permanently damaged by environmental degradation. Done Waiting will oppose the creation of any and all sacrifice zones and instead will work to reinvest in communities that have been destroyed because of this. 

    • This is an issue of environmental justice. Done Waiting will support the Green New Deal, which would drastically increase environmental safety standards to ensure that Indigenous people are not ignored when it comes to issues of environmental justice and its impact on health. 

    • According to Environmental Health Perspectives, “Indigenous communities are disproportionately exposed to environmental contaminants based on where they live and the cultural activities that put them in close contact with their environment. However, federal and state laws often make it easier for extractive and polluting enterprises to access tribal lands.” This is an outrage. A Green New Deal would move our economy away from fossil fuels, which would consequently prevent huge corporations from dumping waste and exposing Indigenous peoples to corrosive chemicals. 

    • In addition, Done Waiting recognizes the need to work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to aggressively push for the regulations required to help Indigenous tribes all over the country. Done Waiting will work with representatives from Indigenous communities to address the specific problems that individual tribes face. For example, in many Indigenous tribes around the country, uranium mining is heavily associated with adverse health outcomes.

  • Increasing Economic Opportunity

    • Through a Green New Deal, millions of good paying, union jobs will be created. When we transition from an energy system centered around fossil fuels to one dominated by green energy, we will become the world’s leader in this field, radically expanding our economy and saving the planet in the process. 

    • A Green New Deal would involve an enormous investment in America’s crumbling infrastructure. We’d rebuild bridges, power grids, and public transportation, creating jobs in the process. 

    • Done Waiting also supports raising the minimum wage to a living wage of at least 15 dollars an hour. It’s an outrage that the median income of American Indian and Alaska Native households is $40,315, paling in comparison to the median for White families.

    • Once again, Done Waiting believes that we must implement the 10/20/30 legislation that has been introduced. This would ensure that 10% of Rural Development investments would be allotted to communities where 20% of people have lived below the poverty line for the last 30 years. This would mean more funding for a lot of Indigenous communities, as well as Latinx communities and southern African-American communities.

  • Indigenous Women and tribal jurisdiction  

    • According to the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (VAWA), the federal government is bound by a "trust responsibility to assist tribal governments in safeguarding the lives of Indian women". Yet a study conducted by the National Institute of Justice found that 4 in 5 First Nation women are affected by violence. Furthermore, 97% of these instances are carried out by non-indigenous perpetrators. Indigenous women are murdered at a rate of almost 10 times the national average, and thousands go missing each year. However, due to institutionalized racism and jurisdictional incompetency within our criminal justice system, the majority of these cases go unresolved. This failure to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples is not only a gross violation of our own responsibilities to the Native population but is in fact a failure to uphold our obligations under international human rights law, such as the UNDHR.

      • We must expand VAWA and the Tribal Governments Program in order to allocate more resources towards aiding indigenous communities in developing effective strategies to curtail violence against indigenous women.

      • Measures must be taken at the federal level to reduce racial bias against indigenous peoples within the justice system, similar to that which has been done as it pertains to other forms of racial biases.

    • The restriction of tribal governments’ authority over the prosecution of non-indigenous defendants in instances of crimes against First Nation people is a continuation of oppressive settler colonialism. All Indigenous governments must be given the jurisdiction to prosecute non-Native criminals, as it is their prerogative.

    • Indigenous peoples involved in U.S. courts are often forced to carry out trials without proper representation. Indigenous people must be afforded the exact same rights that other individuals are afforded under the United States Constitution, and we must have enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure this.

  • Medicare for All and Health Care

    • Indigenous people are often left behind by the American healthcare system. First nations people born today have a life expectancy that is 5.5 years less than the U.S. all races population and at a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. Many are turned away by doctors due to implicit racial bias and disproportionate poverty leading to a lack of healthcare. 

    • Medicare for all would cover all Indigenous people. However, we must also make sure that the practices and health standards are aligned and cultured to work for and with the Indigenous standard of health and medicine, not strictly the Medicare system. Our government must provide public funding to Indigenous established healthcare centers to allow these communities to have autonomy over their own health infrastructure, but also have the option to participate in the Medicare system.

    • Medicare for all combined with funding for healthcare centers would increase the quality of patient care and expand coverage for the 2.9 million first nations people.

  • Education

    • 17% of Indigenous students, compared with 60% of the U.S. population, continue education after high school.

    • We must increase access to affordable and quality education in Indigenous communities and reservations, meaning supporting these schools just as much as we support schools in high-income, white areas. We must increase, expand, and improve the schools that currently exist in low-income rural and urban areas, allowing all kids, regardless of background, to have the option to pursue education after high school. 

    • The College for All act will also ensure that, regardless of socioeconomic status, every child has the means to attend a Public University in this country. Also, we must support Indigenous students once they get there. Done Waiting believes the federal government must work with Indigenous groups to lift up collegiate programs that support Native attendees once they are at their university of choice.