The White House said President Joe Biden will announce steps to improve public safety and justice for Native Americans during the first Aboriginal Nations summit since 2016.
Leaders of more than 570 tribes in the United States are expected to attend the two-day event, in which about three dozen will address the gathering. The summit is being held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic that has affected Native Americans and Alaska Natives at disproportionate rates.
Biden and First Lady Jill Biden are set to speak on Monday, followed by Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday. Several members of Biden’s cabinet will also take part in it.
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 was not held during the previous Trump administration. Previous conferences were held at the Department of the Interior.
Psaki said Biden would use the summit to announce steps to improve public safety and justice for Native Americans and protect private lands, treaty rights and holy places.
According to the Association on American Indian Affairs, American Indians and Alaska Natives are more than twice as likely to be victims of violent crime, and at least twice as likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other races.
Since taking office in January, Biden has taken a number of steps that the White House says demonstrate his commitment to tribal nations.
Among them, Deb Haaland, a former Congresswoman from New Mexico, is being named as the first Native American to head the Department of the Interior, the powerful federal agency that has influenced American tribes for generations. Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo.
The White House said Biden’s coronavirus relief plan includes $31 billion for tribal communities, and the administration has worked closely with tribal leaders to create the highest COVID-19 vaccination rate among Native Americans in the country Can go
Biden also recently became the first president to issue a proclamation designating October 11 as Indigenous People’s Day, thereby re-focusing the long-standing federal holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus in appreciation of Indigenous peoples. The effort got a boost.
Earlier this year, Jill Biden visited Window Rock, Arizona, the capital of the Navajo Nation, for two days in April.