Vice President Kamala Harris promised to address the "shameful past" of America's European explorers, saying they "ushered in a wave of devastation" for Native Americans, the Daily Mail reported.
Speaking at the National Congress of American Indians 78th Annual Convention on Tuesday in Portland, Oregon, Harris said that "since 1934, every October, the United States has recognized the voyage of the European explorers who first landed on the shores of the Americas. But that is not the whole story. That has never been the whole story," Fox News reported.
She emphasized that "those explorers 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."
Harris spoke the day after Columbus Day — which has also been formally recognized for the first time this year as "Indigenous Peoples' Day" by President Joe Biden, who signed an executive order intended to help Native American communities with educational and economic opportunities, according to the Daily Mail.
Harris said that the Biden administration would work to correct the wrongs done to Native American communities over the generations.
The vice president bemoaned that "Native Americans are more likely to live in poverty, to be unemployed, and often struggle to get quality healthcare and to find affordable housing," adding that "this persistent inequity, this persistent injustice is not right. And the pandemic has only made it worse."
Harris said that Biden's $3.5 trillion infrastructure legislation will help Native American communities, particularly by improving internet access and providing better facilities.
"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," the vice president said.
She also warned that Native American voters "are being systematically denied access to the ballot box," and urged Congress to pass The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — both of which are intended to reduce voter suppression.
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