KEY POINTS

  • Biden administration will renegotiate federal funding for job training with tribal nations
  • Harris drew attention to the alarming rate indigenous women are being murdered 
  • Harris said the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide opportunity 

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said the Biden administration will not shy away from the "shameful" history of the first arrival of European explorers and their devastating impact on the natives.  

"Since 1934, every October, the United States has recognized the voyage of the European explorers who first landed on the shores of the Americas. But that is not the whole story," said Harris on Tuesday while virtually addressing the National Congress of American Indians, the largest U.S. organization for native people. 

"Those explorers ushered in a wave of devastation for tribal nations, perpetrating violence, stealing land and spreading disease. We must not shy away from this shameful past. We must shed light on it and do everything we can to address the impact of the past on Native communities today," she said a day after Columbus Day, which marks the landing of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in America.

In recent years, Columbus day has been fraught with controversy, with some people criticizing the celebration of a slave-owning explorer who brought oppression to America. 

President Biden has proclaimed Oct. 11 to be Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

According to Harris, the Biden administration would renegotiate the memorandum of agreement on Public Law 477 about federal funding for job training on tribal lands with tribal nations in an effort to support tribal sovereignty. The memo was last renegotiated in 2018 under the Trump administration without input from the tribal nations, Reuters reported

"Native Americans do the work that we know is essential to make our nation work," noted Harris. "And still, Native Americans are more likely to live in poverty, to be unemployed and often struggle to get quality health care and to find affordable housing. This persistent inequity, this persistent injustice is not right, and the pandemic has only made it worse." 

She added the White House is working with the Republicans and Democrats to pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will provide tribal nations an important opportunity to strengthen their economy. 

Moreover, the recent extensive media coverage on the death of Gabby Petito has also drawn sharp criticism towards the lack of investigation and coverage of missing indigenous women. Harris addressed this by shedding light on the alarming rate native women and girls are being murdered, which she added "must end."

US Vice President Kamala Harris's trip to Asia comes as Washington faces fresh questions over its dependability amid the US pullout from Afghanistan and Taliban takeover US Vice President Kamala Harris at a conference Photo: POOL / EVELYN HOCKSTEIN