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President Biden to sign order promoting tribal self-determination

President Biden holds 2-year-old Mancuaq Mann of Dillingham, Alaska at a White House event earlier this year.
C-SPAN screenshot
President Biden holds 2-year-old Mancuaq Mann of Dillingham, Alaska, at a White House event earlier this year.

President Biden will sign an executive order on Dec. 13 that White House officials say will demonstrate the government’s respect for tribal sovereignty and self-determination.

The order comes as the 11th White House Tribal Nations Summit begins in Washington, D.C.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told reporters that the administration has focused on tribal co-management of federal resources, and on seeking tribal input on decisions before they become policy.

“We will announce 190 co-stewardship agreements have been signed this year by our administration,” Haaland said. “Tribes from coast to coast are playing a greater role in the management of the lands and waters they have cared for since time immemorial.”

The statement is sure to rankle on the Arctic Slope of Alaska. A delegation of tribal, local government, and Alaska Native corporation leaders from there have complained to Congress in recent weeks that Haaland wouldn’t meet with them to hear their views, which generally favor oil development in their region.

The executive order includes provisions intended to make it easier for tribes to access federal funds, while adding flexibility and eliminating onerous reporting requirements.

Tom Perez, senior advisor to President Biden, told reporters that the administration has made record-breaking investments of some $46 billion to tribal nations.

“Tribal communities know best what is in their community’s best interest,” Perez said. “And through that partnership, they continue to make much needed updates to tribal roads, bridges, delivering clean water, (and) high-speed internet to Indigenous communities and to ease the impact of climate change.”

The tribal nations summit began in 2009 and was an annual event during the Obama administration. Donald Trump did not continue it during his years at the White House. This is President Biden’s third summit.

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media