Elizabeth Warren: I Won’t Do Anything That Affects Native American Tribal Lands Without Consent

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) promised during CNN’s climate change town hall Wednesday night that she will not do anything that affects Native American tribal lands without consent.

Warren took a question from a woman from the Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, who asked the Massachusetts senator what changes she would make to “support communities facing community-wide displacement and cultural erasure.”

“I’m from the Island of Jean Charles, Biloxi, Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe. We’ve been dubbed as many — by as the first American climate refugees. We had a front-row seat to climate change for the past 20 years,” she said.

She continued:

I had to move my home from my island home when I was little due to mold-induced asthma and from repeat flooding. So my question to you is, if president, what changes would you make to support communities like mine who face community-wide displacement and culture erasure?

Warren used the opportunity to reiterate that any climate change proposal is about more than saving the planet. It, she argues, is also about “justice” for “people who have been displaced, for workers who’ve been displaced, [and] for people in communities of color.” She said she wants to make sure the money goes down to the “community level” and proceeded to describe her unique approach to the climate crisis.

“When I first started thinking about how to describe what I will fight for when I run for president, I decided I wasn’t going to do one climate plan. I decided I was going to try to look at climate in every part of the plans I’m working on,” Warren said.

“I’ve got a lot of places where this comes in, because that’s how I see it. It’s not going to be a one and done that’s all confined. It’s that it hits in different places,” she continued.

Warren used the opportunity to demonstrate her commitment to Native American communities, promising to get their permission before doing anything that affects tribal lands.

“So, for example, on the policies about our relationship, our federal government’s relationship with our native tribes, it’s about respecting the tribe’s ability to take care of their own land, to be good stewards of the land,” Warren said.

She promised that — as president — she “will not approve any plans for the use of federal lands that are near tribal lands that can affect what happens on tribal lands or sacred lands that are sacred to our Native American brothers and sisters.”

“I will not do that without the prior informed consent of the neighboring tribes,” she pledged.

“I think that’s how we help tribes be the stewards of the land that they have been for generations and I know they will be for generations to come,” the presidential candidate added.

Warren released a lengthy plan designed to honor and empower “tribal nations and indigenous peoples” last month, and it does — as Warren suggested — weave in climate change-related concerns.

It states in part:

Conversations about physical infrastructure must also include serious engagement with the unique threat of climate change to Native and indigenous peoples. Climate change has severely impacted Alaska Natives, with many communities displaced. The Quinault Indian Nation faces similar threats. And as the climate crisis worsens, so too will its disproportionate impact on Indian Country. We must consider these disparate consequences in our climate policies and prioritize frontline communities in a manner consistent with our commitments under the Green New Deal. My Green Manufacturing plan, for example, prioritizes resources for communities that often bear the brunt of climate change. It also envisions creating truly participatory and democratic processes to both help frontline communities adapt — and address the structural inequalities that made them vulnerable in the first place.

Warren’s overarching climate change plan specifically vows to “empower tribal communities with the resources to fully fund needed electrical grids and expand existing successful renewable energy initiatives” while making “respect for sacred tribal religious interests the law of the land. “

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