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Interior Department to reconvene council on Native American issues

Interior Department to reconvene council on Native American issues
© US Department of the Interior

The White House will reconvene its Council on Native American Affairs next week after nearly five years with no regular meetings, the Interior Department announced Thursday.

The council, which includes representatives of numerous federal agencies, was established in June 2013 in response to requests from tribal leaders. It has not regularly convened since 2016, according to the Interior announcement, although Interior Secretary David Bernhardt reestablished the council in April 2020 to address the coronavirus pandemic.

Interior Secretary Deb HaalandDeb HaalandInterior secretary approves new Cherokee constitution providing citizenship rights for freedmen Carter sworn in as House member to replace Richmond, padding Democrats' majority Biden administration approves major offshore wind project MORE, the nation’s first Native American Cabinet secretary, will convene the meeting April 23 with domestic policy adviser Susan RiceSusan RiceRepublicans' 'marriage bonus' is social engineering at its worst Biden HHS secretary argued to keep Trump-era refugee cap: report Biden's elitist work-family policy won't work for most families MORE, the department said.

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The department said the council would be reconvened as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to prioritize getting resources to Native American communities to address climate change, the economic recovery and the coronavirus pandemic.

“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 Thursday. “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 White House Council on Native American Affairs will maximize federal efforts to support Tribal Nations as they tackle pressing issues, such as COVID-19 response, reopening schools and rebuilding Tribal economic development,” Rice added. “This inter-agency Council reinforces the Administration’s support for Tribal sovereignty and self-governance and will help to fulfill the federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations.”

Haaland has taken action on several issues specifically affecting Native communities since taking office. These include the announcement in April that the department will create a unit to investigate missing and murdered Native Americans. Soon after Haaland was sworn in, the department also reversed its position on ownership of a section of the Missouri River, concluding that the section that flows through the Berthold Indian Reservation belongs to its three affiliated tribes.