Aliyah Chavez
Indian Country Today

Ten Cabinet secretaries and other top ranking officials met Friday for the first convening of the White House Council on Native American Affairs under President Joe Biden’s administration.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo and chair of the council, and Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice co-led the virtual meeting. The discussion focused on improving tribal consultation and formalizing working committees of the council, the White House said in a statement. 

The event was closed to press.

The White House council was first established in 2013 by former President Barack Obama through an executive order. It aims to work across executive departments to develop policy recommendations to support tribal self-governance and overall to “improve the quality of life for Native Americans.”

The council was not reestablished during former President Donald Trump’s first three years in office. In 2020, the Trump administration announced plans to reestablish the body with former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt as chair.

Under the Biden administration, the council was reinstated in less than 100 days of office, according to the White House. 

A key function of the council is to assist in organizing an annual White House Tribal Nations Conference each year, a hallmark event for tribal leaders to speak with the president and Cabinet members.

“Reviving the Council sends a strong signal that this administration is committed to hearing from Native leaders and supporting Native communities,” Hawai’i Sen. Brian Schatz said, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “This Council will ensure Tribal consultation continues to guide federal decision-making and facilitate a whole-of-government approach to addressing Tribal priorities. I look forward to working with the Council on our shared commitment to upholding our federal trust and treaty responsibility to sovereign Tribal Nations and Native communities.”

The conference is set to resume in late 2021 and is hoping to be scheduled in-person.

(Related: White House plans tribal nations conference this year)

Participants at Friday’s meeting included agency leadership from the following offices:

  • Department of the Interior
  • Domestic Policy Council
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Energy
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Health and Human Services
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of Labor
  • Office of Management and Budget
  • Office of Personnel Management
  • Office of Management and Budget
  • Small Business Administration
  • Social Security Administration
  • Department of State
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Treasury
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • US Ambassador to the United Nations
  • US Trade Representative
  • Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
  • Denali Commission
  • Gender Policy Council
  • Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • National Climate Advisor
  • Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
  • Cabinet Affairs
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