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The White House Tribal Nations Conference — a hallmark event for tribal leaders to meet with the nation’s top officials — is set to return later this year.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki told Indian Country Today at a White House press briefing Friday that officials are hoping for an in-person gathering, if the pandemic eases toward the end of the year.

“To have a conference like that, we’d love to do that in person and have people meet in person to make it that much more constructive and productive,” Psaki said, responding to a question via Zoom from Indian Country Today.

The conference, first established by President Barack Obama, provides an opportunity for a President and members of the Cabinet to meet directly with tribal leaders.

The conference began as a promise Obama made during a visit to the Crow Nation in 2008, but has not been held since Obama’s last year in office in 2016. President Donald Trump reestablished the White House Council on Native American Affairs but did not host the tribal nations conference while in office.

Other topics addressed at Friday’s briefing included the Biden administration’s pledge of additional funding, topping $4 billion to support Indian Country’s COVID-19 response.

(Related: White House plans $4 billion COVID-19 response)

“We will continue to partner and we will work directly with tribal nations in distributing critical resources and ensuring that funds meet the needs of Indian Country,” Psaki said.

Friday’s press briefing offered a rare chance for an Indigenous journalist to ask a question at a White House press briefing, a daily occurrence that usually features reporters in Washington.

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