|In this update, you will learn about many of the ways in which President Obama and his Administration are continuing to address the myriad issues facing American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities.Please visit us online to learn more about the White House Office of Public Engagement, the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and the White House’s work with Native American communities. Please encourage your friends and colleagues to sign up for updates!
Raina Thiele Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement The White House IndianCountry@who.eop.gov
P.S. — If you’re on Twitter, you can follow Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett at @VJ44, Public Engagement Director Paulette Aniskoff at @PAniskoff44, and Director of Specialty Media Shin Inouye at @Inouye44!
Secretary Jewell Convenes Fourth Meeting of the White House Council on Native American Affairs
On September 30, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell convened the fourth meeting of the White House Council on Native American Affairs (Council). Established by the President through EO 13647, the Council is tasked with working across executive departments, agencies, and offices to coordinate the development of policy recommendations and the U.S. government’s engagement with tribal governments. Obama administration Cabinet Secretaries and senior officials participated in discussions 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. On September 29, Secretary Jewell held a call with tribal leaders across the country to ask for their advice and input on goals and priorities for the Council.
Interior, Justice Join Navajo Nation to Announce $554 Million Trust Settlement
On September 26, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, and Acting Assistant Attorney General Sam Hirsch of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division joined Navajo Nation tribal leaders and members to announce a major tribal trust accounting settlement.
The White House Launches the “My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge”
On September 30, the White House released a list of tribal nations, mayors, and county officials that have accepted the President’s “My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge.” The President announced this community challenge on September 27, inviting community leaders to improve outcomes for young boys and men of color in America. President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color, and to ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. More information, including how tribal nations and local executives can sign up for the Challenge, is available at www.MBKChallenge.org.
Obama Administration Launches Second Promise Zone Competition to Create Economic Opportunity in High-Poverty Communities
On September 19, the Administration launched the competition to designate the next round of Promise Zones, part of the President’s plan to create a new pathway to the middle class by partnering with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, improve educational opportunities, and reduce violent crime. This past January, President Obama announced the first five Promise Zones selected by an interagency panel. The work being done in these communities is already helping to move the needle in key areas.
Acting Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Visits Fond du Lac Indian Reservation to Discuss Climate Change
On September 12, Acting Director of the Council on Environmental Quality, Mike Boots, visited the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indian Reservation. Acting Director Boots toured the reservation and facilities with tribal Chairwoman Karen Diver, a member of the President’s State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, and the Tribe’s Resource Management Division. Acting Director Boots was joined by other White House and Department of the Interior officials.
Attorney General Holder Delivers Farewell Remarks Celebrating Associate Attorney General West’s Tenure at the Department of Justice
On September 8, Associate Attorney General Tony West stepped down from his post at the Department of Justice. In celebration of his time there, Attorney General Eric Holder publicly thanked Mr. West for his dedicated service, including his advocacy for the rights of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples.
Justice Department Awards $87 Million to Enhance, Support Tribal Justice and Safety
On September 22, the Justice Department announced the awarding of 169 grants to American Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages, tribal consortia, and tribal designees. The grants will provide more than $87 million to enhance law enforcement practices and sustain crime prevention and intervention efforts in nine areas including public safety and community policing; justice systems planning; alcohol and substance abuse; corrections and correctional alternatives; violence against women; juvenile justice; and tribal youth programs.
HUD Reaches Settlement with US Bank Resolving Allegations of Lending Discrimination against Native American Couple
On September 15, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that it has reached an agreement with U.S. Bank National Association, U.S. Bank subsidiary Red Sky Risk Services, LLC (formerly known as USB Lending Support Services, LLC), and one of U.S. Bank’s loan officers, resolving allegations that they refused to refinance the mortgage of a Native American couple in Belcourt, North Dakota, because their property is located on a reservation. The Fair Housing Act prohibits lenders from discriminating in making mortgages available or in the terms or conditions of a mortgage transaction based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, or disability.
USDA Announces Investments to Increase Economic Activity in Rural Areas and on Native Lands
On September 12, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden announced that the USDA is investing in rural businesses and development organizations to spur economic growth in rural areas and in Tribal communities.
Land Buy-Back Program Tops $100 Million in Payments to American Landowners with Fractionated Interests
As part of President Obama’s commitment to help restore tribal homelands, the Department of the Interior’s Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations has successfully concluded transactions worth almost $103 million, restoring the equivalent of nearly 265,000 acres of land to tribal governments.
USDA Partners with States, Tribes to Improve Public Access on Private Lands
On August 7, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the Department of Agriculture will partner with nine State agencies and with the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Nation to increase recreational and economic opportunities on private lands. Funding is provided through USDA’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
Interior Transfers Another $1 Million from Land Buy-Back Program to Cobell Education Scholarship Fund
On October 1, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that an additional $1 million has been transferred to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund, bringing the total transferred in 2014 to more than $4.5 million. The Scholarship Fund was authorized by the historic Cobell Settlement and is funded in part by the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations. The Scholarship Fund provides financial assistance through scholarships to American Indian and Alaska Native students wishing to pursue post-secondary education and training. The Scholarship Fund is administered by the American Indian College Fund in Denver, Colorado, with 20 percent directed to the American Indian Graduate Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A five-member Board of Trustees oversees and supervises the activities of the fund’s administrator. More information about the Cobell Education Scholarship Program can be found at the American Indian College Fund website.