Last year, we were honored to join the Red Road to DC, a totem pole Journey from the pacific northwest to Washington DC, stopping at many native sacred sites along the way. The red road tour highlighted the hundreds of Indigenous sacred sites across the country — places of Indigenous foods, medicines, ceremony, burial sites, and creation stories — that have been threatened and desecrated by the climate crisis, pollution, and extraction.
This desecration of sacred spaces happens without the consent of Tribal communities who have traditional and spiritual connections to the land — and in violation of federal treaties.
The Red Road tour ended in DC, where we delivered comments and demands to Secretary Haaland and President Biden. But Congress must also act to update federal land management laws to protect Tribal cultural sites, and to ensure that Tribal governments are afforded the rights due to them as sovereign nations.
Current laws fail to adequately protect Tribal government interests on federal land. For example, public land containing a Tribal sacred site can be sold to private developers, without any regard for a Tribe’s interest in the land. Numerous federal laws require federal land managers to consult with State and local governments, but many of these requirements ignore Tribal Nations.
Two landmark pieces of legislation would correct these injustices and ensure that Native people have a seat at the table: The Advancing Tribal Parity on Public Land Act and the Tribal Cultural Areas Protection Act.
Advancing Tribal Parity on Public Lands Act:
Prohibits the sale of public land containing a tribal cultural site, where a tribal nation retains treaty or other reserved rights, or that contains a former reservation. Also requires federal land management agencies to provide tribal governments with meaningful public involvement opportunities in land use planning, and requires that public land advisory boards include at least one tribal representative.
Tribal Cultural Areas Protection Act:
Establishes a national system of culturally significant sites on public lands, prohibits mining and other forms of development that would impair Tribal cultural areas’ cultural values, and ensures that tribal nations have the ability to protect, co-manage, and use the cultural sites they have used for generations.
After the Red Road tour ended last year, the Native Organizers Alliance delivered signatures supporting these landmark bills to Congress and the House Committee of Natural Resources held hearings. But we’re running out of time for Congress to act.
The current Congress will only be in session for a few more weeks, and when the new Republican House takes charge in January 2023, we don’t expect them to prioritize protection of sacred spaces. So this native American heritage Month, we’re calling on Congress to advance and pass these important bills. Please add your name to tell Congress to pass the Advancing Tribal Parity on Public Lands Act and the Tribal Cultural Areas Protection Act now.