2020 Democratic Candidates are Responding to DAPL Through Tribal Policy Proposals
Senior, Louisiana State University
“We’re about protecting our water. We’re about protecting our sacred places. We’re about protecting our sovereignty,” said Dabe Archambault II, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe during interview with ABC news in 2016 on the Dakota Access Pipeline.
In 2017, after months of protests by environmental activists and the Sioux Tribal nation, construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline was completed. The pipeline is widely considered by tribes as a violation of sovereignty and by environmental activists as a continuing threat to the drinking water of the region. The structure of U.S. tribal consultation policy was not strong enough to give the Sioux Nation substantial influence on permitting for a project that would affect their land. The pipeline decision has been a focusing event for many Democratic candidates running for president and other progressive policy makers in the U.S. who are calling for the integration of a land rights policy that is internationally considered a “best practice.”
Free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) is a standard of indigenous land rights policy that requires just what it implies, informed consent by indigenous peoples for development projects or government policies that could impact their territories or peoples. FPIC is the difference between simply a requirement to consult with indigenous peoples over outside actions that can affect them and giving those communities a final say on whether those actions can be taken out at all, essentially giving the communities a “veto” power in the strictest interpretation.
In terms U.S. proposals, a number of 2020 Democratic primary hopefuls have released their own with various degrees of specificity. Read below for excerpts of these proposals and click here for a longer essay on the history of FPIC and environmental self-determination for indigenous peoples.
Senator Elizabeth Warren
Senator Warren’s proposal is by far the most lengthy and detailed platform for indigenous issues. Warren calls for the revocation of Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline permits on the basis that they did not receive the consent of the indigenous communities that they affect. The proposal also states “respect for tribal sovereignty means that no project, development, or federal decision that will have a significant impact on a tribal community… should proceed without the free, prior, and informed consent of Tribal Nations concerned.
Secretary Julian Castro
Secretary Castro’s proposal addresses a need to “modify and codify tribal consultation requirements,” ensuring tribes have judicial recourse if their input is not considered during consultation. He goes on to call for the end of “leasing of lands for fossil fuel exploration and extraction,” and requiring “free, prior, and informed consent” of tribal communities on infrastructure projects that affect them.
Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Sanders’ tribal policy platform has a bullet point calling for a Green New Deal to undo damage inflicted on indigenous peoples and to “stand with Native Americans in the struggle to protect their treaty and sovereign rights.”
H.Res.109 By Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
In addition to these campaign proposals, it is worth mentioning that U.S. Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s 2019 H.Res.109 Green New Deal Resolution calls for “obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples for all decisions that affect indigenous peoples and their traditional territories… and protecting and enforcing the sovereignty and land rights of indigenous peoples” as a standard to achieve the stated goals of the proposed Green New Deal mobilization.
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