Vice President Kamala Harris pitched the administration’s massive spending plans to American Indian leaders by saying it would help the nation own up for its “shameful past” in which European explorers “ushered in a wave of devastation for Native Americans.”
She made the pitch to build support for President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and $3.5 trillion social welfare plans, which are stalled in Congress.
Speaking remotely to the National Congress of American Indians 78th Annual Convention in Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday, Ms. Harris said that Columbus Day, recognized by President Biden as Indigenous Peoples Day, is an occasion to “speak truth about our nation’s history.”
“The nation for decades had used the holiday to celebrate the explorers. But that is not the whole story. It has never been the whole story,” she said.
“Those explorers ushered in a wave of devastation for tribal nations, perpetrating violence, stealing land and spreading disease,” Ms. Harris said. “We must not shy away from this shameful past.”
Ms. Harris said the spending packages would build bridges and increase broadband service on American Indian lands.
“This bill represents the largest infrastructure investment our nation has made since before World War II and presents, right now, an important opportunity to strengthen Indian Country,” she said. “And as Native communities have led for generations upon generation on protecting our environment, I should also mention that this bill would also put millions of dollars toward making sure our communities are resilient in the face of climate change.”
“I believe strongly that we right now have a chance to change things, to improve things, to be better for this generation and for the seven generations to come,” Ms. Harris said in a nod to a belief attributed to the Iroquois that decisions should be made based on how they would impact the future.
Ms. Harris also used the speech to push Democratic bills in Congress that would block election security laws adopted in Republican-run states, repeating the claims from the left that they are leading to American Indians and other people of color to be “systematically denied access to the ballot box.”
Mr. Biden’s spending bills and the election law bill are stalled in Congress. The two spending bills, which are the bulk of Mr. Biden’s legislative agenda, are mired in Democratic infighting. The election bill can’t overcome opposition from Senate Republicans.