“Your Order Is a Direct Attack”: Native American Tribe Condemns Biden Administration

"Native American heritage celebration" (CC BY 2.0) by The U.S. Army

The day after Joe Biden’s inauguration on Thursday, January 21, a Native American tribe issued a letter to Joe Biden’s acting Secretary of the Interior, blasting his Secretarial Order that involves the suspension of delegations of authority on federal lands. 

President Biden’s acting Secretary of the Interior, Scott de la Vega, is slammed by a Native American tribe for issuing a Secretarial Order No. 3395. Said Order “temporarily suspends delegations of authority regarding leasing and permitting on federal lands, with a significantly reduced staff able to approve such items. This order does not halt leasing or existing development, and at its face is a temporary measure, but is certain to create bottlenecks that last well beyond the 60-day limit on the order.”

Meanwhile, the Ute Indian Tribe is not scared to blatantly respond to the Secretary of Interior’s Order that restricts federal energy development. In a letter sent to the office of the Secretary of Interior, they stated, “Your order is a direct attack on our economy, sovereignty, and our right to self-determination.”

De la Vega second-largest of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee, Luke Duncan, sent a letter to the Secretary of Interior requesting them to “immediately amend” Order No. 3395 to provide an exception for energy permits approvals on Indian lands.

The letter further explained that the Indian Tribe, among other energy-producing tribes, rely on energy development to fund their governments and provide services to their tribe members. 

The tribes further wrote in their letter, “Your order is a direct attack on our economy, sovereignty, and our right to self-determination. Indian lands are not federal public lands. Any action on our lands and interests can only be taken after effective tribal consultation.”

They also stated that the Order pushed by the Acting Secretary of Interior violates the treaty and trust responsibilities the country signed with the Ute Indian Tribe. They added that it also violated the “sovereignty and self-determination” of the Indian tribe and was issued in violation of their “government-to-government relationship.”

To end the letter, the tribe is requesting the Order to be withdrawn or amended to comply with the Federal law and policies. 

Uintah and Ouray reservation is located 150 miles east of Salt Lake City. Utah has around 3,200 tribal members, and the Reservation where the tribe is located rests within an area known as the “Utah Basin.” 

According to their website, reservation is the second-largest Indian reservation in the United States and covers almost 4.5 million acres, and is home to Ute Indian Tribe.

On the other hand, the Department of the Interior defended the Secretarial order by saying that the Order does not affect existing and ongoing operations under valid leases. It also does not impede the issuances of permits, leases, and other authorization by those specified. The Department of Interior further stated any actions that might be needed if any incidents might post as a threat to human health, safety, or welfare would continue. 

However, as Bloomberg reported, Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, stated last Wednesday that the Biden administration still has an existing duty to end new oil and gas leasing on federal lands. She did not, however, further elaborate on the plans of the President. a

Psaki said, “We do, and our team will review the leases.”