As Prepared For Delivery:
Greetings, everyone. I hope you’re enjoying the first Biden-Harris Tribal Nations Summit. After a four-year hiatus, it is great to be able to host this Nation-to-Nation Summit once again. And, I’m honored to join so many distinguished Tribal leaders and Administration colleagues in this important convening.
As President Biden’s Domestic Policy Advisor, I have the privilege of driving the development and implementation of the President’s domestic policy agenda in the White House and across the federal government, from health care to economic mobility to rural and urban policy. It is my responsibility to make sure our domestic policies are carried out on behalf of the American people—and that includes Native people. In that work, I’m grateful to be supported by Libby Washburn, our incredible Special Assistant to the President for Native Affairs, and a proud member of the Chickasaw Nation.
For too long, Tribal issues were confined to the Department of Interior—if they were addressed at all. I’m proud that today, as you’re well aware, the Secretary overseeing Interior and stewarding our lands is Secretary Deb Haaland—a member of the Laguna Pueblo and one of more than 50 Native appointees in the Administration—who works every day to ensure that we’re upholding our Nation-to-Nation commitments. But, I’m also proud that this Administration is taking a whole-of-government approach to Indian Country. During the 2020 campaign, President Biden promised to “ensure tribes have a seat at the table at the highest levels of the federal government and a voice throughout the government.”—and he’s delivering.
You can see that approach at work in the White House Council on Native American Affairs, which I’m honored to co-chair alongside Secretary Haaland. President Biden reinstated the Council in his first 100 days in office, and believe me, we’ve been busy. We’ve formed half a dozen interagency committees, focused on everything from treaties to climate change. The Cabinet members leading these interagency committees—many of whom have traveled to Indian Country themselves—are committed to achieving real, lasting impact for Tribal communities. It’s not every day you see 17 agencies signing onto a tribal treaty rights MOU.
The results of this stepped-up engagement and investment are undeniable. In just ten short months, the President has taken executive action on a wide range of Native issues. Protecting public lands. Strengthening Native voting rights and access. Seeking greater justice for missing and murdered indigenous people.
In March, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan. With more than $31 billion devoted to Tribal communities and Native people, it was the single-largest federal investment in Native communities in the long history of this country. Thanks to those resources, Indian Country has begun to rebuild. Native communities have gone from having some of the highest COVID infection rates, to having the highest COVID vaccination rates.
Yesterday, President Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, with more than $13 billion devoted to Native communities. That’s vital funding to ensure clean and safe drinking water and clean up pollution. To improve Tribal transportation. To expand broadband access and close the digital divide. As one Tribal leader said of the infrastructure bill, “We are good stewards of our natural resources… we are part of the solution to rebuilding in a way that tribal communities, the state and the region all benefit.”
And, we’re not done making generational impact. The Build Back Better Act in Congress promises transformative investments—to make child care and caregiving accessible and affordable, lower health care costs, strengthen the middle class, and combat climate change. The President has also requested nearly $29 billion for Indian programs in next year’s budget—a 14 percent increase over the previous year and one of the largest requests for Indian programs ever—including, for the first time, advance appropriations for the Indian Health Service to ensure a more stable and equitable flow of funding.
As we continue this work, we want to hear from you. As the President emphasized just six days into office, when he signed a memorandum committing his Administration to consultation, we do best when federal officials listen to Tribal leaders in formulating the policies that affect Tribal Nations. So, we appreciate this opportunity to hear what’s important in your communities, and I can promise you this won’t be our last engagement. Thank you for participating in this summit, for guiding and informing our work, and for your extraordinary leadership in building a better future for Native Americans and all Americans.