WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will announce steps to improve public safety and justice for Native Americans on Monday during the first Tribal Nations Summit since 2016, the White House said.
Leaders from more than 570 tribes in the United States are expected for the two-day event, with nearly three dozen speaking at the gathering. The summit is being held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is disproportionately affecting Native Americans and Alaskan people.
Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will speak on Monday, with Vice President Kamala Harris following on Tuesday. Several members of the Biden Cabinet will also attend.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the summit coincides with National Native American Heritage Month and will be hosted by the White House for the first time. The summit did not take place during the previous Trump administration. Previous conferences have been held at the Ministry of the Interior.
Biden will use the summit to announce steps to improve public safety and justice for Native Americans and protect private land, contract rights and sacred places, Psaki said.
Alaskan Indians and Native Americans are more than twice as likely to be victims of violent crime and at least twice as likely to be sexually abused than other peoples, according to the Association on American Indian Affairs.
Since taking office in January, Biden has taken several steps that, according to the White House, demonstrate his commitment to indigenous nations.
Among them is the appointment of Deb Haaland, a former US representative from New Mexico, as the first Native American to head the Home Office, the powerful federal agency that has influenced US tribes for generations. Haaland is a member of Laguna Pueblo.
Biden’s coronavirus relief plan has spanned $ 31 billion for tribal communities, and the government has worked closely with tribal leaders to help keep COVID-19 vaccination rates among Native Americans among the highest in the country, the White House said.
Biden was also recently the first president to issue a proclamation declaring October 11th as Indigenous Peoples Day, which gives a boost to longstanding efforts to make the Federal Day in honor of Christopher Columbus an appreciation for the indigenous peoples.
Earlier this year, in April, Jill Biden spent two days visiting the capital of the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Arizona.
Members of the Carrizo / Comecrudo Tribe of Texas hold their fists as activists protest outside the White House in Washington, DC on Oct. 11.
(AP Photo / Andrew Harnik)