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News Release

Native Organizers Alliance

The House Natural Resources Committee today held its first hearing on two bills designed to strengthen tribal co-management of public lands and allow tribes to weigh in on cultural sites protection.

The Tribal Cultural Areas Protection Act and Advancing Tribal Parity on Public Lands Act, introduced by Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), have broad support from tribes, Native organizations, and environmental groups.

“These bills address a significant gap in sacred sites protection,” said Judith LeBlanc (Caddo), executive director of Native Organizers Alliance. “Too often the fate of our most sacred places where we hold ceremonies, gather food and medicines, and get our drinking water, is controlled by whoever is in the White House. These bills codify the protections, like tribal consultation, that are so important to protecting and maintaining sacred sites.”

“When tribes are not engaged in the planning and management of our ancestral lands,” said LeBlanc, “and when we do not have the ability to consent to their protection, development, or care, we are left to defend them through the court systems or direct action like at Standing Rock.”

Among other provisions, the Tribal Cultural Areas Protection Act would: establish a national Tribal Cultural Areas System that consists of sites on public lands that are culturally significant to tribes; direct land management agencies to identify potential tribal cultural areas; and empower tribes to engage in co-management of public lands through cooperative management agreements with federal agencies. 

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“Nobody knows our ancestral lands better than our own people,” said LeBlanc. “Incorporating Indigenous knowledge through co-management will benefit everyone and helps us protect these places for many generations to come.”

The Advancing Tribal Parity on Public Lands Act would require public land managers to consult with tribal governments. As of now, they are only required to engage State and local governments. The legislation would also enable the purchase or transfer of public lands to tribal nations, something that has only been available to State and local governments.

“These are commonsense laws that should have been enacted long ago to uphold tribal sovereignty and honor the treaties,” said LeBlanc. “It’s past time that Congress take action to strengthen sacred sites protection by passing these two laws.” 

Additional information:

Advancing Tribal Parity on Public Lands Act overview: https://naturalresources.house.gov/imo/media/doc/ADVANCING%20TRIBAL%20PARITY%20ON%20PUBLIC%20LANDS%20ACT.pdf.pdf

Tribal Cultural Areas Protection Act overview: https://naturalresources.house.gov/imo/media/doc/TRIBAL%20CULTURAL%20AREAS%20SYSTEM%20ACT.pdf

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