Will Biden support boarding school reparations at the WH Tribal Nations Summit?
Answers from senior administration officials on that and other pressing questions.
WASHINGTON — Here’s what senior Biden administration officials are saying about their first in-person White House Tribal Nations Summit:
“The president has worked hard to build our nation-nation relationships and ensure that we're doing everything we can to support Indian Country. He's prioritized respect for tribal treaty rights and reserved rights, tribal self-governance, and conducting meaningful consultation with tribes. This summit is built upon that premise of furthering those nation to nation relationships. We will have tribal leaders from hundreds of tribes present. We want the summit to provide them an opportunity to engage directly with officials in the highest levels of the Administration on issues important to them and their communities.”
“We'll have a total of 10 policy panels featuring Cabinet secretaries and tribal leaders on stage in dialogue. These will vary between larger panels of five or six people, to smaller fireside chats, which will be tribal leader-led, one-on-one, tribal leader speaking with a federal official. For the larger panels, we've built in a block of time for tribal leader questions from the audience. And in the afternoon we have blocked two hours for tribal engagement sessions with the White House Council on Native American Affairs, to again encourage that engagement. That council has six committees covering relevant tribal portfolios and the committee leads at the under secretary level. During those sessions, we'll hear from tribes about announcements that were made in the morning, and about their priorities for 2023.”
Tribal consultation improvements
“During the president's remarks and throughout the course of the two-day summit, we will be announcing a number of new action items, including the president will sign a new presidential memorandum, establishing uniform standards to be implemented across all federal agencies regarding how tribal consultations are conducted. This new memorandum builds upon the president's January 26, 2021 memorandum, by implementing consultation improvements recommended by tribal leaders, and delivers on the president's campaign promise to ensure consistent and effective consultation practices across the federal government.
“Notably, it establishes key principles like consultation must be a two-way nation-to-nation exchange of information. Agencies must strive for consensus when consulting with tribes, rather than mandating compliance or simply checking the box. Agencies will have to provide ample time for communication. They'll have to provide sufficient material in advance, and they'll have to allow for time for written comments. They will prepare a record of consultation, and when the consultation is over, the federal agency decision is made, they'll go back to the tribes and inform them the decision that was made and how tribes influenced the decision making. Also, for federal agency staff who work with tribal nations or on policies with tribal implications, this presidential memorandum will require annual training, and OPM and DOI will work with tribal nations to develop training modules on topics of tribal consultation, nation to nation relationships, and tribal sovereignty.”
More anticipated highlights
“Other important announcements to be made over the next two days: The president launched several key initiatives at last year's summit in the area of tribal treaty rights, indigenous knowledge, co-stewardship. The administration will be announcing the ways in which it has delivered on those commitments. First, a new best practices report for considering and integrating tribal treaty rights and reserve rights into federal agency decision making. Two, guidance from CEQ and OSTP on incorporating Indigenous knowledge as a valid form of evidence into federal agency decision making. And third, with respect to co-stewardship, the president will announce that USDA and Department of Interior, through a joint secretarial order that they signed last year, they've delivered on 20 new agreements with tribes to give them a greater role in the management of federal lands that are sacred and significant to them.
“And not only that, but it'll also be announced that Secretary Raimondo and the Department of Commerce will sign on to that joint secretary order, so that agencies like NOAA will continue to further co-stewardship goals in their management of waters and fisheries.”
“We'll have a number of other new initiatives being announced, many coordinated through the White House Council on Native American Affairs, and a number of which fall into the clean energy and economic development space. Department of Interior, Department of Defense, and GSA will announce a new initiative to leverage their procurement authority to purchase more clean energy from tribes.”
“10 federal agencies will announce a new electric vehicle initiative for tribal nations to ensure that tribes and native communities are included and not excluded in the nationwide build out of electric vehicle infrastructure.”
“The Small Business Administration will lead an effort with six to seven other agencies and White House components to increase access to capital in Indian Country.”
“The Department of the Interior and HHS, relying on their procurement authority under the Buy Indian Act will announce procurement goals to secure more supplies and services from native owned businesses.”
“One key area that we're focused on is taking steps to increase and strengthen tribal participation in the management and stewardship of public lands and waters. Our ancestors were the original stewards of these lands, and have millennia of expertise in land management, doing things like preventing wildfires, managing drought, addressing famine, and making sure that ecosystems were in balance and in good health for many generations. And engaging tribes on our stewardship efforts is going to help protect our lands and waters, not only just for Indigenous people, but for all people in the United States, by bringing tribal knowledge and tribal expertise to bear.”
“Last year, Secretary Haaland and Secretary Vilsack signed a joint secretarial order directing our two cabinet agencies to undertake co-stewardship in partnership with tribes on public lands and waters through written agreements with tribal nations.
“And we're building on those efforts…we're going to have a new partner agency involved in this work and continuing to reach new agreements. Part of our homelands work here at the Department of the Interior involves carrying out the President's commitment from the earliest days to make the land and the trust process easier for tribes. And so we will be soon proposing new regulations to make good on that commitment and to reform the Department of the Interior's land and the trust policy and regulations for tribes. This is something that hasn't been done in nearly four decades.”
“We're also committed to upholding the highest standards of public safety and justice across Indian Country. In my travels from Alaska to the East Coast to the southwest and every area in between, this is one of the top priorities that I hear from tribal leaders, is to make sure that we are making investments in public safety in Indian Country and placing a priority on this.”
“So over the past year for example, we have worked to strengthen the Missing and Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people. And over the past year, this unit has investigated a total of 570 missing and murdered persons cases and has solved 90 missing persons cases and six murder cases since its inception. This is the kind of success that's possible when we pool our resources and marshal the weight of the federal government to protect tribal communities. And this week we'll continue to showcase that commitment through a series of new steps saying that public safety and justice in Indian Country, including a new agreement between the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the FBI, to strengthen our relationship and further coordinate the work that we're doing in tribal communities.”
Will dual taxation be addressed during the summit?
“It will come up somewhat in a panel on access to capital and economic development, one of the goals of which is to identify and increase access to capital. And of course tribal nations deserve to be taxing and levying taxes and collecting taxes within their homelands and jurisdictions to pay for the government services they provide, and often cannot do that because of dual taxation. So it will come up there. And I also believe that the Treasury Department, as part of one of their announcements, will relaunch a second round of tribal consultations on their dual taxation report and look for solutions, and continue looking for solutions in 2023.”
Will President Biden and/or Secretary Haaland commit to supporting reparations for Indian boarding school survivors and their descendants at the summit? If not, why not?
“I can…just speak to our commitment to continuing our work under the Secretary's Boarding School Initiative. As you know, we've released volume one of our report and the work is ongoing. We expect to release more information as we continue our research and complete the Road to Healing Tour. One of the things that the administration will be committing to is work over the next year to begin to take oral statements and more complete information from boarding school survivors across the country.”
Will lobbyists be attending the summit?
“Although I handle most of the policy work and not a lot of the logistics, my understanding is that the invites were for tribal leaders from tribal nations, and those are the engagements that we want to encourage and emphasize during the summit.”
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