- By Native News Online Staff
WASHINGTON - A day after it lost a court battle over COVID-19 relief funding for Native American tribes, the Trump Administration announced it plans to re-establish the White House Council on Native American Affairs, which was created by a 2013 executive order issued by then President Barack Obama.
In a news release, the White House said that it re-established the Native American Affairs council under Executive Order 13647 as a way to continue inter-agency coordination of the Indian Country COVID-19 Response Team assembled by the White House in early March. The Council will be chaired by the Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, and includes major executive agencies and senior White House leadership.
The announcement this morning comes after a federal judge on Monday blocked the Trump Administration from distributing tribal relief funds to privately held Alaska Native Corporations. The lawsuit that led to the ruling was filed, in part, because of a disconnect between tribes and the Department of Treasury as to what qualifies as a tribal government.
The effort to re-establish the White House Council has been "underway for some time," according to a Department of Interior spokesperson. "With the all-of-government effort to address the current COVID-19 crisis, now more than ever inter-agency coordination for Indian Country is needed."
The newly re-established council will also help drive Administration policy priorities supporting Indian Country, including economic development and rural prosperity, energy development, infrastructure, public health, cultural resources, public safety, veterans’ affairs and education & workforce development, according to a White House news release.
Tyler Fish, whose name was linked to a leaked document with sensitive tribal data in a report by Indianz.com, will serve as executive director of the council. Fish has served as the Tribal Liaison in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs since July 2019.
The council will help the Administration be even more responsive to Indian Country, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney said in a statement.
“We are looking forward to partnering with Tyler, whose proven leadership and legacy of bridge building throughout the Federal government is meaningful and beneficial for all of us in the Administration, Indian Country and Alaska Native communities,” Sweeney said.
“Tyler has provided great leadership in driving collaboration with tribal leaders across the Nation and helped advance important missions including COVID-19 coordination and action on the issue of Missing and Murdered Native Americans,” said Doug Hoelscher, Deputy Assistant to the President & Director, White House Intergovernmental Affairs.
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