President Donald Trump meets with tribal, state and local leaders at the White House on June 28, 2017. Photo: White House

President Trump told tribes to 'just do it' when it comes to energy development

President Donald Trump so far has hosted just one public event with tribal leaders and a new report about the meeting is raising eyebrows.

According to Axios, Trump urged tribal leaders to exploit their natural resources. That's not a startling message in and of itself but he seemed to encourage them to take action without waiting for approvals from the federal government.

"Chief, chief," Trump reportedly said, according to Axios, "what are they going to do? Once you get it out of the ground are they going to make you put it back in there? I mean, once it's out of the ground it can't go back in there. You've just got to do it. I'm telling you, chief, you've just got to do it."

In a portion of the meeting that was broadcast to the public, Trump gave a similar message. He blamed the government for hindering prosperity in Indian Country by imposing bureaucratic hurdles on development.

Yet more than four months after the June 28 event, Trump's administration has conveyed a different story to tribes. Rather than ease regulatory burdens, the Bureau of Indian Affairs is proposing to add more steps to the land-into-trust process, which tribes say will make it all but impossible for them to acquire new lands for development.

At the same time, the Trump team is waffling on a different proposal even though tribes say it help them expand their economies by outlawing state and local taxation on their lands.

"Washington, D.C., is where things go to stop,” Ron Allen, the longtime chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, said at an October 16 listening session when both proposals were discussed. He urged the new administration to "get the hell out of the way” and let tribes decide how to manage and develop their lands.

The White House did not dispute the account of the June meeting, Axois reported, though one official tried to downplay the meaning of Trump's words. Incidentally, in boasting about his approval of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline over the objections of Indian Country, the president used the same "just do it" phrase.

Read More on the Story:
Trump's Government of One (Axios November 5, 2017)
Trump urged Native American leaders to extract resources from their land: report (The Hill November 5, 2017)
Trump reportedly told tribal leaders to ignore federal laws (MSNBC November 6, 2017)
Just Do It: Trump Urges Native American Leaders to Start Drilling for Resources—Despite Federal Hurdles (Newsweek November 6, 2017)

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