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Biden revives key Native American council

Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior. (Courtesy photo)

President Joe Biden’s promise that his administration would work with Native Americans on a host of issues continued through his first 100 days in office and includes the reinstatement of a significant council.

Biden recently brought back to life the White House Council on Native American Affairs. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) was named the council’s chair and the group held its first meeting April 23.

The council’s goals are to coordinate with tribes on issues such as the continuing Covid-19 response, climate change, tribal homelands and treaties, economic development, energy and infrastructure, health care, education and reopening schools, public safety and justice, and international Indigenous issues.

At the first meeting, 10 cabinet secretaries and other top government officials discussed strengthening nation-to-nation relationships, improving tribal consultation, and formalizing committees within the council.

“The White House Council on Native American Affairs represents an important commitment to strengthen tribal sovereignty, uphold our commitment to tribal nations, and honor the United States’ nation-to-nation relationships,” Haaland said in a statement. “Addressing the systemic inequities that impact Indigenous peoples is the responsibility of every federal agency that will require an all-of-government approach across the administration.

The reestablishment of the council was praised in Indian Country.

“[We] applaud the Biden administration for prioritizing the needs of tribal communities during their first months in office through the reestablishment of the [council] and their renewed focus on tribal consultation,” the Native American Finance Officers Association said in a statement.

President Barack Obama had established the council through an executive order in 2013 in response to requests from tribal leaders. However it was dormant under the Trump administration and had not met regularly since 2016.

The White House also recently announced that it would host a White House Tribal Leaders Summit in late 2021. The purpose of the summit is to provide a venue for leaders of the 574 federally recognized U.S. tribes to interact directly with Biden and representatives from the highest levels of his administration.

More information is at whitehouse.gov.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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