Chair Grijalva Applauds Historic Actions by Biden Administration on Chaco Canyon, MMIW Crisis

Washington, D.C. - Today, Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz) applauded several new Biden administration initiatives to strengthen the federal government’s nation-to-nation relationship with Tribal governments. President Biden announced these initiatives at the start of the two-day White House Tribal Nations Summit, the first formal convening of tribes by the U.S. government since 2016.  

The initiatives announced included a 20-year moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal lands in a 10-mile radius surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park, as well as increased intergovernmental efforts to address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW).

“Today’s actions by the president demonstrate a welcome and dramatic change in attitude towards the Indigenous people of this country,” said Grijalva. “After four years of being ignored and witnessing sacred sites being desecrated, it is reassuring to see President Biden moving forward with the promises to Indian Country he campaigned on by acting to protect the sacred site of Chaco Canyon, as well as prioritizing the safety of Indigenous women and girls. Today’s executive actions are a promising foundation to build a new standard for dialogue between tribal nations and the federal government.”

Chair Grijalva, along with Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), then Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-New Mexico) and then Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) held a field hearing in New Mexico in 2019 on the issue of oil and gas drilling near Chaco Canyon. Their trip also included a tour of the National Historical Park and the surrounding area, where members witnessed the impact that oil and gas drilling has on public health via methane emissions and water contamination.

Later that year, the full House passed H.R. 2181 Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act of 2019 which also called for the same 10-mile buffer zone that President Biden introduced today.

Additionally, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Improving Public Safety and Criminal Justice for Native Americans and Addressing the Crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous People, which directs the Departments of Justice, the Interior, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services to develop a comprehensive strategy to improve public safety and justice for Native Americans and address the epidemic of missing or murdered Indigenous peoples. 

This effort follows a recent Government Accountability Office report requested by Chair Grijalva and other members of Congress, which found that greater intergovernmental coordination and data collection are needed to respond to the ongoing MMIW crisis.

The Order also builds on other recent Biden administration and legislative efforts to address these issues, including the Department of the Interior’s newly established Missing and Murdered Unit and the House-passed Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2021, which expands Tribal authority to prosecute certain non-Indian offenders. 

Under Chair Grijalva’s leadership, the Natural Resources Committee held multiple hearings (see here and here) directing attention to the MMIW crisis. Following these hearings, Savanna’s Act, a bill that requires the federal government to account for the numbers of missing and murdered Native Americans, and the Not Invisible Act, which establishes an advisory commission of survivors and family members to address missing and murdered Native Americans, were signed into law. 

On May 5 of this year, Chair Grijalva led 17 members of Congress in a bipartisan resolution designating a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

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Media Contact: David Shen

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