Senate Indian Committee Democrats Call on Trump to Protect the White House Tribal Nations Conference & Council on Native American Affairs

Vice Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Tom Udall – D – New Mexico

Published March 6, 2017

 
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian affairs, and Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) called on President Trump to demonstrate a commitment to working with Tribes by retaining the White House Tribal Nations Conference and the White House Council on Native American Affairs. These institutions are instrumental in promoting government-to-government collaboration between the executive branch and Tribes and ensuring the White House and executive agencies are participating in meaningful consultation with Tribal leaders and upholding trust and treaty obligations.
 
The White House Tribal Nations Conference is an annual summit that brings cabinet-level and and senior members of the executive branch together with Tribal leaders to discuss the best ways in which the federal government can fulfill its trust and treaty responsibilities. In a letter to the president, the senators wrote, “The Federal Government has a unique nation-to-nation relationship with American Indian and Alaska Native tribes grounded in the United States Constitution, treaties, federal statutes, and Supreme Court decisions. Tribal consultation is the bedrock on which that nation-to-nation relationship is built and, for eight years, the Tribal Nations Conference has served as a signature example of the Executive Branch’s efforts to improve consultation.”
 
The White House Council on Native American Affairs was established in 2013 to increase collaboration between federal agencies and Tribal stakeholders in order to address pressing issues in Indian Country. According to the letter, the Council “succeeded in promoting an ‘all-of-government’ approach to fulfilling the federal government’s trust responsibilities” and “such engagement resulted in tribal initiatives being implemented in a more effective manner across all federal agencies.”
 
Both the Tribal Nations Conference and the White House Council provided Tribal leaders with a “seat at the table” and ensure that the issues most critical to Native communities receive cabinet-level attention and consideration, the senators wrote. 
 
The full text of the letter can be found here and below.
 
Dear President Trump:
 
The White House Tribal Nations Conference (Tribal Nations Conference) and the White House Council on Native American Affairs (White House Council) bring together Cabinet-level officials to foster cross-agency collaboration on issues important to American Indian and Alaska Native tribes.  We ask you to demonstrate your commitment to open and responsive engagement with Indian country by carrying on these important institutions during your presidency.
 
The Federal Government has a unique nation-to-nation relationship with American Indian and Alaska Native tribes grounded in the United States Constitution, treaties, federal statutes, and Supreme Court decisions.  Tribal consultation is the bedrock on which that nation-to-nation relationship is built and, for eight years, the Tribal Nations Conference has served as a signature example of the Executive Branch’s efforts to improve consultation.  These annual summits have given tribal leaders a seat at the table during discussions with Cabinet-level and senior members of the Executive Branch on how the United States can best fulfill its trust and treaty obligations. 
 
Similarly, the White House Council has succeeded in promoting an “all-of-government” approach to fulfilling the federal government’s trust responsibilities.  Established by Executive Order in 2013, the White House Council has since increased federal engagement with tribal stakeholders by bringing inter-agency principals together to address pressing issues in Indian country.  Such engagement has resulted in tribal initiatives being implemented in a more effective manner across all federal agencies. 
 
The White House Council and the Tribal Nations Conference are critical components of how the federal government consults with tribal leaders on a government-to-government basis.  We look forward to your commitment on this matter.  Please contact Jennifer Romero on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs staff at (202)224-2251 or via e-mail at jennifer_romero@indian.senate.gov with any questions.
 
Sincerely,

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