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Welcome to FCNL’s Native American Legislative Update! NALU is a monthly newsletter about FCNL’s Native American policy advocacy and ways for you to engage members of Congress.

President Biden Revives White House Tribal Nations Summit

On Nov. 15-16, for the first time since 2016, the White House hosted the Tribal Nations Summit. Top Biden administration officials spoke with tribal leaders to discuss the progress of administration efforts with tribal nations. They also announced new actions and commitments to build a new era of nation-to-nation engagement with tribes.

“These efforts are a matter of dignity. That’s the foundation of our nation-to-nation partnership. That’s what this summit is all about,” said President Joe Biden. The new initiatives included:

  • An executive order to address the crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous People. The order would develop an interagency law enforcement strategy, establish multi-agency coordination of data collection, sharing, and analysis, and support victim and survivor services.
  • A Tribal Treaty Rights Memorandum of Understanding. Seventeen federal departments and agencies commit to protecting tribal treaty rights in their policy processes.
  • An order from the Interior and Agriculture department secretaries to increase tribal participation in the management and stewardship of federal lands.
  • An Indigenous Knowledge Statement, and the establishment of an interagency working group to incorporate traditional ecological knowledge into the federal government’s decision-making and its approach to fighting climate change.
  • The protection of a ten-mile radius of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico from future oil and gas drilling and leasing.

Secretary Deb Haaland also announced the establishment of the first Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee to continue dialogue between tribal nations and the Interior department.

Many tribal leaders acknowledged the unprecedented efforts of the Biden administration to work with tribes. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said, “This is the first time in my lifetime that I see the Navajo Nation having a seat at the table at the White House, with cabinet members of the administration, and they are listening, and the commitment is there in support of the Navajo people, and we appreciate that from this administration.”

Senate Confirms First Native to Lead National Park Service

On Nov. 18, the Senate unanimously confirmed the nomination of Charles “Chuck” Sams as National Park Service director. Sams is a citizen of the Cayuse and Walla Walla of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. He is the first Native American to lead the National Park Service.

“Chuck is a role model in the stewardship of American land and waters, wildlife and history,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (OR). “And now thanks to the Senate’s unanimous decision to confirm his nomination, Congress and park-goers will have someone steady and experienced to rely on in the years ahead.”

Bill Tracker

On Nov. 1, the House passed a number of bills supporting tribal nations, including:
Lumbee Recognition Act (H.R. 2758):

This bill extends federal recognition to the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, authorizes its members to be eligible for services and benefits, and authorizes the Tribe to have land taken into trust.

Urban Indian Health Confer Act (H.R. 5221):

This bill requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to confer with urban Indian organizations on health care policies and initiatives for American Indians and Alaska Natives living in urban areas.

Bear River National Heritage Area Study Act (H.R. 3616):

This bill authorizes the secretary of the Interior to conduct a study to assess the suitability and feasibility of designating certain land in Utah and Idaho as the Bear River National Heritage Area.

What We’re Reading 

People: Portia Skenandore-Wheelock

Portia Kay^nthos Skenandore-Wheelock

Congressional Advocate, Native American Advocacy Program
Portia manages the Native American Advocacy Program, lobbying on legislation that affects Native communities.