Cantwell Statement on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Importance of U.S. Supreme Court for Tribal Rights

EDMONDS, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released the following statement commemorating Indigenous Peoples’ Day and highlighting the importance of the U.S. Supreme Court for protecting the rights of Indigenous people throughout the United States:

“We celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day to honor Native Americans as the first inhabitants of our country and to commemorate Native culture and the history of Native peoples. Indigenous people have faced and rose above insurmountable challenges. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee begins its rush on hearings on a Supreme Court nominee who will impact Tribal rights and law for generations to come.

“The U.S. Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the treaties and federal statutes that make up Indian law in our country. Its opinions shape Native Americans’ future and whether tribal sovereignty will be respected. Judge Barrett has almost no record on these issues. It is essential that the Senate consider how her judicial philosophy will impact the rights of Native Americans. Her approach focuses on interpreting laws based on their text and the original understanding of their authors. When many laws were written, Native Americans faced historic discrimination and mistreatment.

“We already know that Judge Barrett has been critical of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and, if confirmed, she will decide whether the Supreme Court will strike it down. The ACA has helped Native Americans access health care and reduced the number of uninsured American Indians and Alaska Natives in Washington state by more than half. Ending the ACA’s protections would have a terrible toll on our Tribal communities, which already have challenges getting access to health care. They have been disproportionately impacted by coronavirus and rely on the ACA covering pre-existing conditions, expanding Medicare, and supporting the Indian Health Service, Tribally-operated health care facilities, and Urban Indian Health Organizations. I have real concerns.”