Give thanks for America's energy resources and let Native Americans benefit from them

At the first Thanksgiving, the Wampanoag Indians and the Pilgrims celebrated the gifts of their creator – the natural bounty of the Earth and of cultivated crops – together.

Today, many Native Americans are left out of an incredible economic renaissance that is coming from the land’s natural resources.

Because of oppressive federal regulations, Indian reservations have been called “the hole of a donut” in parts of our country where oil and natural gas extraction is creating an economic-and-opportunity revolution – for everyone except Native Americans.

A few weeks ago, President Trump – the man the left likes to call “racist” – raised eyebrows when Axios reported that he told Native American leaders that they should not be left out any longer. The website said the president told tribal leaders to go ahead and extract energy resources from their lands – federal regulations be damned.

As reported by Axios, when tribal leaders explained the regulatory barriers to energy extraction on a reservation, President Trump said: “Chief, chief. 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.”

Some Washington elites saw President Trump’s words as an example of the behavior of a naïve and egotistical despot, inconsistent with the way American government works.

But to a population feeling like prisoners of federal regulations, barred from using the land they live on to liberate their communities from poverty, President Trump’s “just do it” message must have felt like the words and encouragement of someone who actually has their best interests at heart.

Why shouldn’t all Americans – Native and otherwise – benefit from the bounty of our incredible land’s resources? President Trump’s point is fair and important.

Reuters reported earlier this year that “clearing regulatory hurdles for a single project on tribal lands can take as many as 50 steps, compared to a half dozen for oil wells on private property.” The same report said that “Native American reservations cover just 2 percent of the nation’s surface, but by some estimates contain as much as a fifth of all U.S. oil and gas reserves, along with vast coal stockpiles.” 

President Trump should continue to work with tribal leaders who want to tear down the regulatory barriers to oil, gas and coal extraction on reservations. Imagine a modern Thanksgiving where Americans of every background once again celebrate the abundance of the land we live on, together.

Giving thanks for the gifts of their creator in the fall was an existing tradition for both the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims. Their joint celebration in 1621 added an element of gratitude for one another, as the Wampanoag had helped the colonists survive in the New World.

President Trump could help return the favor to America’s indigenous people 400 years later, by keeping his promise to change Washington’s absurd regulatory morass and allow all Americans to fairly access the abundance that exists beneath our feet.

Jean Card is a writer and communications consultant with expertise in public policy and small business issues. She is a former speechwriter for the U.S. secretaries of Labor and Treasury as well as the attorney general. Follow her on Twitter: @JeanCard