US should face up to 'shameful past' with tribal nations: vice president

Harris says European explorers had ‘ushered in a wave of devastation for tribal nations, perpetrating violence..'


Reuters October 13, 2021
US Vice President Kamala Harris leads a session of the President's online COVID Summit inside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, US, September 22, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

US Vice President Kamala Harris said on Tuesday that the European explorers who first landed on US shores had "ushered in a wave of devastation for tribal nations, perpetrating violence, stealing land and spreading disease."

"We must not shy away from this shameful past, and we must shed light on it and do everything we can to address the impact of the past on native communities today", she told the National Congress of American Indians, the largest US organisation for native peoples.

The Biden administration would renegotiate a memo of understanding about federal funding for job training on tribal lands with tribal nations, she said. It was renegotiated in 2018 between 12 federal agencies but without input from the tribal nations affected.

She spoke the day after Columbus Day, which marks the landing of explorer Christopher Columbus, and the newly recognised Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Since 1934, "every October the United States has recognised the voyage of the European explorers who first landed on the shores of the Americans," Harris said. "That is not the whole story, that has never been the whole story."

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