Indian Country can lead in recovery through Biden’s jobs plan.
The future of Indian Country depends on the historic investments included in President Biden’s American Jobs Plan. Tribes across the country have never seen such a significant investment in our future. More often than not, Indian Country is used to fighting for scraps in a system designed to keep us at a disadvantage or left out entirely.
However, we find ourselves grappling with unprecedented challenges at the intersection of climate change impacts and a rapidly changing global economy driven more by internet access than the traditional economic drivers.
As Chairman of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, I have tirelessly advocated locally, regionally, and nationally for increased investments in infrastructure as a strategy for diversifying and positioning tribes to better compete for economic opportunity.
As we fight for our stake in the future of this country and at home, the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe has done its part by making significant investments in healthcare, education, public safety, economic development, and job creation.
Fortunately, our long-term investments paid off throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as our government was able to provide for our community and protect our most vulnerable citizens. For many tribes, the pandemic had devastating impacts through loss of life, disrupting traditions, and significantly cutting revenue streams that finance government and administrative services for tribal citizens.
As Native people lead the charge in vaccination rates, I believe we can also lead in the economic recovery by leveraging President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan to address the woefully inadequate infrastructure investments that have held back Indian Country from the beginning.
I believe tribes need to have a seat at the table when it comes to repairing the highway system, supplying clean drinking water and reliable electricity, and getting high-speed internet access to all corners of Indian Country and rural communities.
Throughout the past year and the associated COVID-19 pandemic, Tribes have seen the importance of addressing long-standing disparities we have faced for generations and know that our self-determination, resilience, and vision are essential to keeping our communities healthy and strong for generations to come.
Indian Country’s future is at stake, and we can’t afford to backslide any further from the lasting impacts of this pandemic.
Collectively, we need to leverage our political capital and organizing to support this $2 trillion infrastructure investment or about 1 percent of our gross domestic product. We all know that Native voters—tribal and urban—showed up with unprecedented support of the Biden and Democratic ticket in the 2020 election.
Let us show up again and remind all of our elected leaders of the importance of reciprocating that support for our communities.
Currently, the plan includes investments in rural and tribal communities by providing 100 percent broadband coverage, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, and investing in the agricultural sector. President Biden is also proposing $5 billion for a new rural partnership program to help rural regions—including tribal nations—build on local economic advantages.
Tribal leaders throughout Indian Country understand that we must invest in a sustainable economy for future generations. We cannot continue to absorb the disproportionate impacts of climate change alone, and our best chance to address these issues is through the Biden Administration’s unprecedented investments in infrastructure.
I envision that Indian Country can emerge from these challenging times more robust and capable of leading in job creation, providing quality education, and playing an integral role in competitive regional economies.
Let’s not kid ourselves; each day that passes without our elected leaders delivering on the support needed for American Jobs Plan is another day that we backslide into the long-lasting impacts of the pandemic.
Now more than ever, Indian Country must collectively impress upon our Congressional leaders the urgency to immediately pass the American Jobs Plan.