PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — This week the White House held a two-day Summit on Tribal Nations to celebrate the Administration’s efforts with Indigenous communities and create a plan to address concerns moving forward.
President Biden participated in the summit, outlining measures made by the administration to protect Tribal lands, honor treaty rights, and build a stronger Nation-to-Nation relationship with Tribal governments.
“It was an amazing two days,” said United States Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “The summit was an opportunity for the federal family to join with tribal leaders across the country and listen to them, and hear the future they envision for their communities.”
Haaland told KOIN 6 News, a highlight of the summit was discussing the new Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal passed by Congress on Nov. 5, 2021, stating, “The deal President Biden signed into law the other day is a tremendous opportunity to address the many issues affecting Indian Country.”
Included in the bipartisan infrastructure deal is an investment of $466 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, to address infrastructure projects and climate initiatives.
“These are historic investments that go a long way to advance our equity and environmental justice goals,” Haaland explained. “It ensures these underrepresented communities also have the opportunity to make their communities better.”
$216 million of the investment will go towards Tribal climate resilience, adaptation, and community relocation — an issue Haaland says is already plaguing local coastal tribes.
“Tribes living in coastal communities like Alaska and the West Coast are in danger of sea rise,” exclaimed Haaland. “They’re having to plan to move whole villages inland. Tribes are experiencing that, and they need funding to plan those issues.”
President Biden opened his speech at the Tribal Nations Summit by quoting former Senator Daniel Inouye, saying “Tribal Nations do better when they make their own decisions.”
According to Haaland, the Biden Administration has appointed over 50 Native Americans to serve in political positions. She says their commitment to including tribal voices in these matters will be crucial for the success of the nation’s climate goals.
“Tribes need to be at the decision making table,” said Haaland. “So we are going to rely on them to tell us the best way to move forward. Tribal indigenous knowledge with respect to the environment is going to play a very large role in how we move forward with climate change.”