Tribal Nations and Indigenous Communities Promise
In this moment of racial and social reawakening we must acknowledge that the deliberate and unjust federal government’s historical mistreatment of Native American communities has left them vulnerable to disaster. In our own First District, this could not be more apparent, as we’ve witnessed decades of inadequate support that have left unimaginable devastation to culture, resources and strong cultural traditions.
We have tribes, nations and pueblos in New Mexico that don’t even have access to safe water, and a health care system that has built distrust. Tribal communities struggle under the powerful alcohol and predatory lending industries that surround their vulnerable communities. These communities continuously struggle for economic and educational parity with their neighbors.
But we still expect them to be our frontline and essential workers, and too often we turn a blind eye or they suffer severe political and economic consequences when they speak-up for inclusion, equity and fairness.
I am deeply aware of this truth, and I know that we can’t just legislate our way out of the past. I know that there’s no simple solution.
That’s why I’m not proposing a plan, but a promise.
My Promise to You
Our district needs federal representation that surpasses the example of our own Congresswoman, and now Secretary Deb Haaland, who understands that we must to fight like hell for our indigenous communities to be not only heard but to actively support what they want.
We need a Member of Congress that isn’t afraid to double down on tribal sovereignty while also working day-in and day-out to ensure Native access to every single federal opportunity that comes before us. Be it COVID relief, job creation and economic recovery, health care reform, infrastructure to build new schools and roads, or the Red Deal and support Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth— Congress needs to consider how the principles of Tribal Consultation must honor the federal trust responsibility using the UNDRIP framework so that federal law positively impacts Tribal Nations with full transparency.
In Congress, I promise to do just that. I’ll not only vote with Native American communities, but I’ll help create structural change that begins here at home, from the ground up.
And I promise to actively seek your input to make sure I’m fighting the right fights and advocating aggressively on your behalf.
Finally, I want to be a model for other Members of Congress to follow. I will consider it a privilege to represent a Congressional district that’s rich with Native American and indigenous history. I promise educate other Members of Congress that may not have the honor of representing Tribal Nations.
Listening and Building Partnerships
In order to help build partnerships, we must make sure our Tribal communities are invited to work with us. As part of this, in Congress I’ll establish a working group / council to insure we hear from our communities, their elders, and their representatives. This council will be composed of community members, and it will meet regularly with me and my staff.
I will also make it a priority to ensure my office is a resource for constituent inquiries regarding our Tribal communities. We will have dedicated staff assisting with connecting and directing Native Americans with appropriate local/state agencies, federal agencies, and other stakeholders.
Constituent services must target the communities that most need them. From day one, I will make it my mission to ensure we do this for our Tribal and indigenous communities.
I support tribal sovereignty, plain and simple.
I won’t be talked down or changed on this belief. We need Members of Congress to support tribal sovereignty at every step. In the post-COVID-19 environment we will support self- determination and all actions tribes seek for self-governance as they revision the building of their communities.
We must realize that marginalized communities have been left out of almost every critical conversation. If we are to talk about a future where we rebuild an economy “for all”, then we can’t ignore our nation’s Tribal communities.
The federal government must support tribal sovereignty and ensure that it stands by its treaty obligations. As part of this, we must also ensure that all of New Mexico’s indigenous communities have their culture and language preserved including Mixtecs and Nahuas. Elders and traditional leaders have succumbed to the pandemic and cultural heritage resources are under threat across the country, we must address the loss with compassion and resources.
My First Major Policy Priority
My first immediate step in Congress will be to revisit, improve and pass our own Congresswoman Deb Haaland’s proposed legislation, the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act. In addition to being a sponsor, I will be an active participant in helping promote the bill, to build coalitions, and to work with colleagues across the country and across the aisle to garner support.
The bill would implement the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ landmark 2018 report, Broken Promises: Continuing Federal Funding Shortfall for Native Americans. The report concluded that the federal government systematically failed to honor its promises and treaty obligations to Native peoples—particularly pertaining to federal spending.
This legislative proposal includes a number of provisions, including:
Economic Development: Proposals for guaranteed, full funding for Native American Community Development Financial Institutions, Native business incubators, roads and transportation programs, E-rate expansion, the Federal Communications Commission’s Office of Native Affairs and Policy.
Health Care: Proposals for guaranteed, full funding for Native health care programs, including mandatory funding for the Indian Health Service, full implementation of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, Urban Indian Health Programs, behavioral health, and public health.
Education: Proposals for guaranteed, full funding for Bureau of Indian Education schools, Native language programs and culturally inclusive education, programs to support Native students in all public schools, and Tribal Colleges and Universities.
Housing: Proposals for guaranteed, full funding for the Indian Housing Block Grant program, the Indian Community Development Block Grants, various loan guarantee programs, and housing for Native veterans.
Criminal Justice and Public Safety: Proposals for guaranteed, full funding for Tribal justice systems, Tribal law enforcement and detention facilities, including the Tiwahe Initiative, increased access to crime data, victim services, and programs to combat violence against Native women.
Congressional and Administration: Options for improving budgetary certainty, increasing Tribal representation in the Executive Branch, and addressing the Broken Promises report’s recommendations regarding Native Hawaiians.
While this legislation will not solve every concern of Tribal Nations, it’s comprehensiveness will help Congress to build coalitions and to drive forward a cooperative solution we’ve desperately needed to have.
In addition to working on this legislation, I’ll work hard on particular aspects of this proposal, and I’ll use it as a framework by which to help move individual bills, to press federal agencies, and to keep our federal government accountable to you.
Victor Reyes for Congress
P.O. Box 7301
Albuquerque, NM 87194