National | Politics

First White House Council meeting expected this summer

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell expects to hold the first meeting of the White House Council on Native American Affairs this summer.

Jewell, who took over the Interior Department in April, will chair the new council. She will joined by the heads of every Cabinet department and other federal agencies.

"Indian Country deserves a federal partner that works together in a coordinated and effective manner and I know that the council will be a great structure to help make that happen," Jewell said on a conference call with the media yesterday.

The council will be meeting three times a year. Jewell acknowledged that every Cabinet secretary might not be able to attend every session but they will be sending designees.

"In terms of level of attendees, they are the Cabinet-secretary level. That is my expectation and I will be asking my colleagues to attend," Jewell said.

Tribal leaders are welcoming the development. They say the council represents a historic and important step in advancing the government-to-government relationship.

"We hope American Indian tribes are well represented on the council as tribes were here first and have treaty rights, land bases and a special government-to-government relationship with the United States, Tex Hall, the chairman of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association, said in a press release. "Now, American Indian tribes can be represented at the White House level with President Obama. The White House Council on Native American Affairs is truly the first ever and a historic decision.”

Cedric Cromwell, the chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts, noted that one of the council's missions will be promoting economic development in Indian Country. “This executive order opens direct lines of communication between sovereign tribes like the Mashpee Wampanoag and the President," he said.

"We fully support President Obama for creating this important Council that is designed to work with us on preserving our tribe’s sovereign rights while helping us promote our sustainable economic growth,” Cromwell added. “We know our nation will continue to prosper and persevere because that is what the President wants us to do.”

Get the Story:
Interior Secretary Jewell makes emotional pledge to Native Americans to help right past wrongs (AP 6/27)

Executive Order:
Establishing the White House Council on Native American Affairs (June 26, 2013)

Related Stories:
Tribes hail White House Council on Native American Affairs (6/27)
YouTube: Secretary Sally Jewell speaks at NCAI conference (6/27)
Secretary Jewell: Strengthening federal-tribal relationship (6/27)
President Obama creates top-level Native American Council (6/26)

Join the Conversation