WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today convened the fourth meeting of the White House Council on Native American Affairs (Council), formed by Executive Order of the President, to work more collaboratively and effectively with American Indian and Alaska Native leaders to help build and strengthen their communities.
Obama Administration Cabinet Secretaries and senior officials participated in discussions today focused on several core objectives, including reforming the Bureau of Indian Education, promoting sustainable tribal economic development; and supporting sustainable management of Native lands, environments and natural resources. The discussion also included potential additional areas of focus based on consultation with tribal leaders.
The meeting follows the President’s June visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota where he announced new initiatives to expand educational and economic opportunities, which the Council oversees and promotes, and Secretary Jewell’s 20th visit to Indian Country last week, where she joined Navajo Nation leaders to announce a $554 million settlement of the tribe’s trust accounting and management lawsuit. Since 2009, this Administration has resolved more than 80 tribal trust settlements with federal-recognized tribes, providing more than $2.5 billion in settlements, in addition to the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement of individual Indian trust claims.
“The landmark Cobell Settlement and resolution of more than 80 other individual tribal trust management lawsuits under President Obama has launched a new chapter in federal trust relations with tribes, reflecting this Administration’s continued commitment to strengthening our government-to-government relationship with tribal leaders,” said Secretary Jewell. “Today’s meeting of the Council is another step toward building upon that relationship by working to better coordinate the resources of the federal government so that tribal nations can more easily cut through red tape and access the tools they need to advance their economic and social goals.”
The Council’s subgroup on Indian education highlighted progress to date on the Blueprint for Reform, which was announced via Secretarial Order in June of this year. The purpose of the Blueprint is to restructure and redesign the Bureau of Indian Education, transforming the agency from solely a provider of education into a capacity-builder and service-provider to tribes that will operate schools. The redesign will help ensure students attending BIE-funded schools receive a high quality education delivered by tribal governments. The subgroup on infrastructure and economic development reported on its efforts to increase tribal sovereignty, remove regulatory barriers to development and support Native entrepreneurs. Today’s meeting also included updates from the energy subgroup regarding coordination of federal agency efforts to promote energy and energy infrastructure development in Indian Country. The climate change subgroup discussed its efforts to work with tribal leaders to prioritize the major climate change challenges facing Indian Country and help tribal communities combat and minimize the adverse effects.
In addition to Secretary Jewell, participants at today’s meeting included: Cecilia Munoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, who also co-chaired today’s meeting, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President; Broderick Johnson, Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary; Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture; Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services; Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy; Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education; Gina McCarthy, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency; Jeff Zients, Director of the White House National Economic Council; Mike Boots, Acting Chair White House Council on Environmental Quality; Jodi Gillette, Senior Policy Adviser for Native American Affairs; and Raina Thiele, Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs.