White House Tribal Nations Conference to return

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaking at the 2014 The White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington D.C. (Photo by Vincent Schilling, Indian Country Today)

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President-elect Joe Biden's administration vows to ‘immediately reinstate’ the meeting  #NativeVote20

Vincent Schilling
Indian Country Today

The White House Tribal Nations Conference is coming back to Washington, D.C.

Julia Krieger, regional communications director for the Biden-Harris campaign, confirmed in an email Sunday night to Indian Country Today that Joe Biden's administration will "immediately reinstate" the White House Tribal Nations Conference, where tribal leaders are invited to Washington, D.C,. to meet with high-ranking government leaders.

Krieger confirmed that the “Biden-Harris Plan for Tribal Nations,” as listed on the JoeBiden.com website, would be honored.

The introduction to the plan says, in part: “The United States of America was founded on the notion of equality for all. We’ve always strived to meet that ideal, but never fully lived up to it. Throughout our history, this promise has been denied to Native Americans who have lived on this land since time immemorial.”

With over 574 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States, the Biden-Harris plan states it will:

  • Strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship
  • Provide reliable, affordable, quality health care and address health disparities
  • Restore tribal lands, address climate change and safeguard natural and cultural resources
  • Ensure Native communities are safer, and tackle the crisis of violence against Native women, children and the elderly
  • Expand economic opportunity and community development in Native communities
  • Invest in education and youth engagement
  • Meet obligations to and commemorate Native veterans
  • Ensure Native Americans can exercise their right to vote

Under the “Strengthen the Nation to Nation relationship,” section, the website states: “Biden will ensure tribes have a seat at the table at the highest levels of the federal government and a voice throughout the government.”

The Trump administration reinstated the White House Council on Native American Affairs but did not hold a White House Tribal Nations Conference.

The White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Vincent Schilling)
The White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Vincent Schilling)

A famous promise President Barak Obama made to Natives came while he was still running for office. It was spurred by Lindsay Early, of the Comanche Nation in Oklahoma, who wrote him a letter explaining that she had screamed with joy while listening to one of his speeches.

“If you’re president and somebody screams, that can mean many things, usually,” said Obama, amid laughter. “Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s not so good. But, according to Lindsay, it was good. And I answered back, 'I hear you girls, and when I’m elected, I won’t forget you.'"

(Related: Obama’s Last Tribal Nations: An Administration of Promises Kept to Indian Country)

Obama also once had a traditional cedar hat placed on his head during the conference before his speech, by former National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby.

Former Vice President Joe Biden had also spoken at the White House Tribal Nations Conference on several occasions.

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Vincent Schilling, Akwesasne Mohawk, is associate editor at Indian Country Today. He enjoys creating media, technology, computers, comics, and movies. He is a film critic and writes the #NativeNerd column. Twitter @VinceSchilling. Email: vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com.

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