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U.S. plans to boost purchases of Native goods, revitalize tribal languages

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2022-11-30T11:04:44Z

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks as he visits the SK Siltron CSS facility in Bay City, Michigan, U.S., November 29, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

The Biden administration will announce new actions on Wednesday to give Native American tribes more say in managing federal lands, boost purchases of tribal energy and other goods and services, and revitalize Native languages, the White House said.

U.S. President Joe Biden and other Cabinet officials will announce the measures at this year’s two-day Tribal Nations Summit, with additional steps focused on providing better access to capital for tribal nations, the White House said.

Biden’s three signature piece of legislation – laws dealing with infrastructure, climate and COVID-19 relief – have provided nearly $46 billion in funding for tribal communities and Native American people, the White House said.

The actions include new uniform standards for how federal agencies should consult Native American tribes and the addition of the Commerce Department to agreements promoting the co-stewardship of federal lands, waters, fisheries and other resources of significance and value to tribes.

Federal agencies will also be instructed to recognize and include indigenous knowledge in federal research, policy, and decision-making, by elevating tribal “observations, oral and written knowledge, practices, and beliefs” that promote environmental sustainability.

The Small Business Administration will announce plans to boost access to financing opportunities, while the Energy Department plans to increase federal agencies’ use of tribal energy through purchasing authority established under a 2005 law unused for more than 17 years.

The administration will also work to deploy EV infrastructure in tribal lands, prioritize the replacement of diesel school buses with low or zero emission school buses, and help tribes buy or lease EV fleet vehicles.

As part of that drive, the Interior Department will set a goal to award 75% of contract dollars from Indian Affairs agencies and 10% of the department’s remaining contract dollars to Native-owned businesses. Along with a new Indian Health Service goal of 20% of purchases, the actions could redirect hundreds of millions of dollars to businesses in Indian country.

The government will also release of a draft 10-year plan to revitalize Native American languages and underscores the urgency for immediate action, while formally recognizing the role that the U.S. government played in erasing Native languages.

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