Julián Castro: Partner with tribes 'for a fairer and more prosperous future'

Secretary Julián Castro at the Tribal Nations Conference during the Obama administration. (Photo included in campaign report )

'Indigenous communities have been treated as second-class citizens rather than sovereign tribal nations free to determine their future,' campaign document says

Presidential candidate and former Obama Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro released a comprehensive platform on Indigenous issues, the first detailed plan from a 2020 campaign.

Castro will follow up on that announcement with a meet-and-greet on Meskwaki Settlement in Iowa Friday where he will discuss his blueprint for Indigenous communities and vision for the future of our nation.

“For generations, Indigenous communities have been treated as second-class citizens rather than sovereign tribal nations free to determine their future,” Castro said. “The federal government has repeatedly failed to honor treaty obligations, respect unique government-to-government relationships, and allowed corporations to exploit sacred land for their own profits. I’m proud to release my People First Indigenous Communities platform to establish a blueprint for ensuring all Native people and communities can thrive in the years ahead.”

The campaign said the People First Indigenous Communities platform builds on a “suite of platforms released on immigration, education, housing, lead exposure, and policing reform—all of which have received wide acclaim by policy experts, advocates, journalists, and voters.”

Castro said that the federal government should honor the treaties made with tribes and he reaffirmed the unique government-to-government relationship. “Indigenous communities have been treated as second-class citizens rather than sovereign tribal nations free to determine their future,” the policy said.

“This history has contributed to greater disparity, greater injustice, and in some cases, intolerable conditions in Indigenous communities. Native families are more likely to live in poverty, and often lack access to quality health care, affordable and safe housing, education, internet access, and economic opportunity. Indigenous women are more likely to experience violence, and more likely to never receive justice. Additionally, extractive industries reap the benefits of Indigenous land often without permission, while these communities disproportionately feel the effects of a changing climate.”

Castro said he has unique experience because as secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama, “I visited and worked with Indigenous communities and tribal nations across the country, hearing directly from native peoples about their experiences and challenges they face. These conversations were some of the most impactful of my entire career. At the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, I visited a home with 13 people all sharing an extremely crowded two-bedroom house. Despite the most difficult of circumstances, this native community were resilient, and remained determined to make progress in partnership with the federal government.”

“As president, I will partner with Indigenous communities for a fairer and more prosperous future,” Castro said.

The People First Indigenous Communities plan is comprehensive in scope. It has chapters on tribal sovereignty, treaties, Indigenous women, democratic participation, and partnering with Indigenous communities. That plan calls for a White House Council on Indigenous Communities to coordinate Native American policy throughout the federal agencies, and to restore the annual government-to-government White House Tribal Nations Conference.

It’s rare to have tribal issues raised on the campaign trail by presidential candidates.

Four years ago the only Democratic candidate to campaign on Iowa’s only tribal nation was Sen. Bernie Sanders. In a September rally that year Sanders answered a few questions about federal-Indian policy. The Des Moines Register quoted him: "The federal government, the U.S government's relationship to Native Americans has been a disaster from day one... Everything else being equal, we want decisions being made by the peoples themselves, not dictated by the government. There has to be a relationship, but at the end of the day I would like to see local decisions being made by local people themselves."

The Register said Sander's rally "won an enthusiastic response" and reported a tribal member who said his presence could translate into support on caucus night.

Iowa’s population is 92 percent White and the state’s American Indian Population is 0.5 percent.

There are 1,400 enrolled members of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa/Meskwaki Nation located in central Iowa. And in Tama County, the population of American Indians exceeds 6 percent of the population.

Sanders visit to the Meskwaki Nation paid off. Democrats held their precinct caucus at the Meskwaki Tribal Center, and, according to the results from the Democratic party, the Senator from Vermont won a whopping 83.3 percent of the vote at the Indian Settlement precinct in Tama County. 

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