Castro unveils plan to bolster relationship between federal government and indigenous communities

Castro unveils plan to bolster relationship between federal government and indigenous communities
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White House hopeful Julián Castro announced his “People First Indigenous Communities” platform Thursday intended to improve relations between the federal government and indigenous communities. 

The plan, unveiled a day before a meeting with community members on the Meskwaki Settlement in Iowa, would work to strengthen the sovereignty of indigenous communities, tackle a slate of key issues impacting native groups and bolster partnerships between Washington and tribes across the country. 

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Castro wrote in a Medium post that he was particularly struck by his interactions with indigenous groups during his time as secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration, calling the conversations “some of the most impactful of my entire career.”

“For generations, Indigenous communities have been treated as second-class citizens rather than sovereign tribal nations free to determine their destiny,” he 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.” 

In an effort to strengthen tribal sovereignty, the first prong of Castro’s plan would be to create a White House Council on Indigenous Community Affairs to “ensure Indigenous communities are represented in the federal government and at the decision-making table.” 

The platform would go on to work to boost cooperation with indigenous tribes to tackle a slate of issues, including ending tribal veteran homelessness by 2025. The plan also calls for Congress to fully fund the Indian Health Service and for a potential Castro administration to end the leasing of federal lands for fossil fuel exploration and extraction in an effort to protect sacred tribal areas. 

Seeking to tackle the high rates of missing and murdered indigenous women, Castro would lastly create a federal task force of tribal leaders, public health officials and federal department officials, and back the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

“We can never undo the injustice of our country’s treatment of Indigenous people. But as a nation, we can live up to our treaty obligations, strengthen tribal sovereignty, and be a serious partner in improving and strengthening our shared destiny,” Castro concluded. “The greatness of our country comes not from our past, but from our ability to recognize our faults and work together to make this a more perfect union. We have the opportunity to work together towards a fairer and more prosperous future.”

Castro put up a strong performance at last month's first primary debate, but he has yet to see a jolt in his campaign amid lagging national and statewide poll numbers.