President Biden signed an executive order Monday directing several federal agencies to figure out how to improve public safety for Native Americans and investigate the fates of hundreds of missing or murdered indigenous people.
The president signed the order after addressing the virtual tribal nations summit from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington.
In a call with reporters, a senior administration official said Biden’s order will address crimes against Native Americans, particularly against Native American women, who “are disproportionately the victims of sexual and gender-based violence,” Fox News reported.
American Indians and Alaska Natives are more than twice as likely to be victims of a violent crime and at least two times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted compared to other races, according to the Association on American Indian Affairs.
Biden’s order will direct the Justice, Interior and Homeland Security departments to work together to help combat human trafficking and crime on native lands. The Department of Homeland Security will also be tasked with creating a strategy for “prevention and survivor support initiatives.”
The Associated Press reported that ideas being considered include increased participation in Amber Alert programs as well as national training programs for federal agents. The administration is also expected to create a liaison with Native American family members and advocates.
In a readout, the White House called the ongoing problem of missing or murdered indigenous people an “epidemic,” and noted that the administration will provide “support for Tribal Nations to implement Tribally-centered responses.”
The Department of the Interior will also be tasked with considering a “20-year withdrawal of federal lands within a 12-mile radius around Chaco Culture National Historical Park” in New Mexico, which would ban all new federal oil and gas development in the area, according to the official.
“Chaco Canyon is a sacred place that holds deep meaning for the Indigenous peoples whose ancestors lived, worked, and thrived in that high desert community,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “Now is the time to consider more enduring protections for the living landscape that is Chaco, so that we can pass on this rich cultural legacy to future generations.”
In his remarks at the summit, Biden is expected to note several other commitments the administration will make to support tribal communities, including a tribal treaty rights database that will allow federal employees and the public to search through treaties negotiated between tribes and the federal government, which often need to be referenced when working on various issues.
The White House also plans on creating tribal advisory committees with the departments of Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs.
“The Administration’s work is rooted in the President’s respect for the unique Nation-to-Nation relationship, commitment to the country’s trust and treaty responsibilities, and desire to strengthen Tribal sovereignty and advance Tribal self-determination,” the White House said.
First lady Jill Biden will also participate in the summit, which is the first since 2016 and first to be hosted at the White House. Leaders from more than 570 tribes in the United States are expected to participate in the two-day event, with nearly three dozen addressing the gathering.