May 27, 2020

In Case You Missed It: Senator Warren and Representative Haaland Washington Post Op-Ed: The Federal Government Fiddles as COVID-19 Ravages Native Americans

"It's beyond time for the federal government to take decisive action to empower Native Nations"

Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus and the first Native woman to preside over the House floor during the 116th Congress, published an op-ed in the Washington Post about the federal government's failed response to COVID-19 in Indian Country. 

Read key sections of the op-ed below. Read the full op-ed in the Washington Post here.

For generations, the federal government has failed to honor its promises to Native American people. Now, covid-19 is ravaging Native communities, killing young people and elders alike, and devastating tribal economies. We are fighting in Congress to ensure that sovereign Native nations have the resources needed to protect the health and well-being of their citizens during this pandemic. The novel coronavirus's terrible impact in Indian Country underscores that the federal government must live up to its unique legal and moral obligations to Native nations and act as a partner to help build security and resiliency for the future.


By disregarding the clear health crisis in tribal communities, the federal government continues a tragic pattern of broken promises to Native nations. During negotiations over the Cares Act, the major coronavirus relief package passed by Congress in March, the White House fought against any direct aid to the 574 federally recognized sovereign Native nations. Even when Senate Democrats and the Congressional Native American Caucus successfully ensured the legislation included this critical economic aid, the Treasury Department dragged its feet for weeks. More than a month after the Cares Act was enacted, Native nations still hadn't received a penny of the $8 billion the law provided to them. Only after we and our colleagues pressed the Treasury Department did it release some of the funds to tribal governments.


The federal response to covid-19 in Indian Country is unacceptable - and the American people strongly agree. New surveys from Data for Progress found a bipartisan majority of Americans support increasing funding for the Indian Health Service, holding the federal government legally responsible for upholding its treaty obligations, including health care, and allowing Native nations to interact directly with the federal government to receive aid instead of going through states. The same goes for prioritizing federal aid for hospitals and other essential services needed by communities of color and Native communities that are disproportionately exposed to air pollution and covid-19.