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Tribal input sought on infrastructure, public safety

Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland. (Image via Facebook)

The White House Council on Native American Affairs (WHCNAA) is hosting a session with tribal leaders on implementation of the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and public safety resources across Indian Country.

Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), who is also WHCNAA co-chair, is scheduled to lead the online session Jan. 31. There are also consultation sessions scheduled on the infrastructure law Jan. 26, 27 and 28. Tribal leaders are encouraged to share their recommendations and perspectives on all the efforts of several WHCNAA committees, a news release said.

“As we work to tackle public safety and criminal justice issues impacting Indigenous people or the implementation of the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, I’m proud to bring tribal leaders and government officials together to further invest in our trust relationship,” Haaland said in a statement

The Interior Department said the infrastructure law invests more than $13 billion in tribal communities across the country to “bolster community resilience, replace aging infrastructure, expand access to clean drinking water and to help ensure everyone has access to high-speed internet.”

The Jan. 31 session will also focus on President Joe Biden’s executive order that seeks to improve public safety and criminal justice issues for Native Americans, including addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people.

During Haaland’s initial months in office, the Interior Department created a new “Missing and Murdered Unit” within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services to “pursue justice for missing or murdered Native Americans.”

“Interior is committed to working with tribal governments, law enforcement agencies, survivors, families of the missing, and all communities impacted to coordinate interagency collaboration to address this crisis,” a statement said.

Biden brought back the WHCNAA early in his administration. Its first meeting was held in April 2021. At a November 2021 White House Tribal Nations Summit, Haaland said she would convene her Cabinet colleagues three times a year to meet with tribal leaders to share the work of the WHCNAA and listen to feedback, questions and concerns from tribal communities. The Jan. 21 session is the first such meeting.

More information is at the WHCNAA website.