Ambassador Susan E. Rice Remarks to 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit
As Prepared For Delivery:
Good morning and welcome, everyone. I’m Susan Rice, President Biden’s Domestic Policy Advisor. It’s an honor to be here at the Biden Administration’s first in-person Tribal Nations Summit. I want to especially thank Secretary Haaland—my co-chair of the White House Council on Native American Affairs—for hosting us here at the Department of the Interior, and for being such a proud and vocal leader in upholding our Nation-to-Nation commitments.
President Biden and this Administration are deeply committed to honoring our trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations. That’s why our Administration has dramatically increased our engagement with Tribal Nations and taken a whole-of-government approach to Indian Country, from protecting Tribal homelands to strengthening Native voting rights. We may be meeting at the Department of the Interior, but no longer are Native issues confined to one agency or one bureau. These are priorities across the entire federal government. Perhaps nowhere is that commitment more evident than in the three pieces of landmark legislation we’ll be discussing on this next panel.
In March of 2021, with the pandemic raging, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan, making the single-largest federal investment in Indian Country in history. As we speak, the more than $32 billion allocated for Tribal communities and Native people is being used to help nearly 2.7 million Tribal members stay in their homes, support their families and businesses, access health and education services, and address other longstanding economic needs.
Last November—just a few hours after addressing this summit, in fact—President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to rebuild and reimagine America’s roads, rail, bridges, ports, broadband, and other infrastructure. Thanks to that law, we’re investing $13 billion directly into Tribal communities across the country. That’s money to improve access to high-speed internet, ensure clean drinking water, and create good-paying jobs for Native communities.
But, we didn’t stop there. This past August, the President signed yet another historic law—the Inflation Reduction Act—which takes the most aggressive action on climate and clean energy in American history. This legislation is providing more than $720 million specifically for Tribes and Native communities to plan for and adapt to climate change, mitigate drought, support fisheries, and shift to clean energy.
Individually, each of these laws would be transformative. Together, they offer an unprecedented opportunity for Indian Country—one that we must seize together.
I had the privilege of visiting the Tulalip Reservation in Washington State recently. We discussed treaty rights, salmon habitat and barrier culverts, and toured the Tribe’s fish hatchery. I had the chance to visit some really wonderful children at the early learning academy and talk about the importance of Native languages. We also discussed the need for housing on the Reservation—not just as a place to live, but also as a means of remaining within the community and having access to language and culture. I likewise had the chance to join Menominee Tribal leaders and visit a Tribal sawmill in Wisconsin—part of our Rural Partners Network to connect rural and Tribal communities to federal resources—where I saw how federal funding can help support sustainable development for Tribes and local economies.
These visits underscored why the investments we are about to discuss are so important. With these investments—like the American Rescue Plan—we are helping Tribal homeowners stay in their homes and pay the utility bills. Infrastructure funding is available to improve culverts to help salmon get to spawning grounds. The Inflation Reduction Act is supporting hatchery operations and maintenance. We’re looking to you to help us do even more to lower barriers to access these funds and ensure our programs are tailored to the needs Tribal leaders have identified.
With the leadership of my colleagues Gene Sperling, Mitch Landrieu, John Podesta, and many others across the Biden Administration—in close consultation with Tribes—we’re going to keep working to ensure that these investments deliver transformational results for Tribal nations for generations to come. Now, I’m looking forward to hearing from our excellent panelists.