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Kalle Benallie
Indian Country Today 

The White House held its last day event of the tribal nations summit Tuesday.

Tribal leaders were invited to participate in the two-day virtual event to discuss how the federal government can invest in and continue to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship and ensure progress in Indian Country.

Day 2 of the summit began with a policy panel and three more continued about climate change; treaty rights and sacred lands; economic and workforce development; infrastructure, housing and energy.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and White House Domestic Policy Director Susan Rice also commented.

Notably, an administration listening session received the most tribal leader participation as nine tribal leaders spoke to officials.

At the listening session, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, announced the first Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee at the Department of Interior. It will allow tribal leaders to have a forum directly with Haaland and future secretaries.

“The creation of this new tribal advisory committee is a timely and much-needed development that will ensure tribal leaders can engage at the highest levels of the department on the issues that matter most to their people,” Haaland said in a news release.

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Additionally, there will be tribal leader engagement sessions throughout the White House Council on Native American affairs beginning in January and will be held three times per year.

U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, delivered one of the last remarks and read a poem titled, “Eagle Poem.”

Finally, Vice President Kamala Harris issued the closing remarks of the summit. She spoke about broadband, voting rights, effects of the pandemic in Indian Country, the passing of the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, and the hope to pass the Build Back Better Act that may impact childcare and education in Native communities.

"Please know that President Joe Biden and I are committed to being a strong partner with you. We believe that together we can build a better future,” she said.

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Meanwhile, Indian Health Services announced $9.34 million in funding opportunities to support tribal self-governance and urban Indian health.

“We look forward to continuing to work with tribes interested in entering self-governance compacts, and supporting urban Indian organizations working to improve the health status of urban Indians,” said Elizabeth Fowler, head of Indian Health Services.

There will be two agreements totaling $840,000, the Planning Cooperative Agreement and the Negotiation Cooperative Agreement, administered by the Indian Health Services Office of Tribal Self-Governance.

The application deadline for the cooperative agreement funding opportunities is Feb. 10.

Urban Indian Health Programs will fund $8.5 million for a 4-in-1 Grant Program funding opportunity. It is in support of the four health program objectives:

  • Health promotion and disease prevention services
  • Immunization services
  • Alcohol and substance abuse related services
  • Behavioral health services

The application deadline for the 4-in-1 Grant Program is Feb. 8.

And on Monday, coinciding with the day one of the summit, the Department of Agriculture announced new initiatives marking its commitment toward Indian Country and tribal self-determination.

The final day brings to question how effective the summit was for tribal leaders, especially considering its complete virtual platform.

"I can promise you, this won't be our last engagement," Rice said at the summit. 

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