President Joe Biden will announce steps on Monday to improve public safety and justice for Native Americans during the first tribal nations summit since 2016, the White House said.
Leaders from more than 570 tribes in the United States are expected to join the two-day event, with nearly thirty speeches given to the gathering. The summit is being held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected Native Americans and Alaska Natives at disproportionate rates.
Biden and First Lady Jill Biden are scheduled to speak on Monday, followed by Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday. Several members of Biden’s cabinet will also participate.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the summit coincides with National Native American Heritage Month and is being hosted by the White House for the first time. The summit did not take place under the previous Trump administration. Previous conferences were held at the Ministry of the Interior.
Psaki said Biden would use the summit to announce steps to improve public safety and justice for Native Americans and to protect private lands, treaty rights and holy sites.
American Indians and Alaska Natives are twice as likely to be victims of violent crimes, and at least twice as likely to be raped or sexually assaulted as other races, according to the American Indian Affairs Association.
Since taking office in January, Biden has taken several steps that the White House says show his commitment to tribal nations.
Among them is naming Deb Haaland, a former congresswoman from New Mexico, as the first American citizen to lead the Department of the Interior, the powerful federal agency that has exercised influence over American tribes for generations. Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo.
The White House said Biden’s coronavirus relief plan included $31 billion for tribal communities, and the administration has worked closely with tribal leaders to help make coronavirus vaccination rates among Native Americans among the highest in the country.
Biden also recently became the first president to proclaim October 11 as Indigenous Day, giving a boost to long-running efforts to refocus the federal holiday that celebrates Christopher Columbus toward appreciating indigenous peoples.
Earlier this year, Jill Biden spent two days in April visiting the Navajo Nation’s capital in Window Rock, Arizona.