WASHINGTON, D.C. – In opening remarks at the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit today, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced a series of actions to support tribally led conservation, education and economic development through a new Office of Strategic Partnerships. The Department also announced a new joint project between the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and Trust for Public Lands to create culturally informed outdoor educational spaces, the renewal of “The National Fund for Excellence in American Indian Education,” and new partnerships with community organizations to catalyze economic opportunities across Indian Country.
“At the Department of the Interior we have a solemn duty to honor and strengthen the federal government’s nation-to-nation relationships with Tribes. Today’s announcements reaffirms that commitment and will bring increased and much needed resources to Indigenous communities,” said Secretary Haaland.
The new Office of Strategic Partnerships will assist with building partnerships, leveraging resources, and promoting innovative solutions for Indian Country. It will work to bring awareness of the needs and unique status of tribal communities as federal-philanthropic initiatives and programs are developed. Housed within the Office of the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs and with support from a partnership with Native Americans in Philanthropy, the office will work in close coordination with the White House Council on Native American Affairs and other federal partners to help tribes and tribal organizations develop and build long-term sustainable bonds with philanthropy, non-profit organizations and the business community to further conservation, education and economic development initiatives in Indian Country.
Through the office, the Department will help manage a diverse set of collaborative efforts with philanthropic and non-profit organizations, including a new partnership between BIE and the Trust for Public Land’s Community Schoolyards Project to create culturally informed outdoor educational spaces. Working closely with tribal communities, the Trust for Public Land has helped design multi-purposed outdoor spaces that infuse physical activity, education, Native languages and cultural heritage. In 2023, this innovative partnership will help fund nine new schoolyards in tribal communities:
- Coeur d’Alene Tribal School, De Smet, ID
- Crazy Horse School, Wanblee, SD
- John F. Kennedy Day School, White River, AZ
- Menominee Tribal School, Neopit, WI
- Northern Cheyenne Tribal School, Busby, MT
- Pine Ridge School, Pine Ridge, SD
- Rock Creek Grant School, Bullhead, SD
- Santa Fe Indian School, Santa Fe , NM
- Wingate Elementary School, Ft. Wingate, NM
In support of these new strategic initiatives, Secretary Haaland is renewing “The National Fund for Excellence in American Indian Education.” Founded in 1999, the congressionally chartered – but long unused – nonprofit organization has a mission to promote educational opportunities for American Indian students attending BIE schools. Through the National Fund, the Department will support tribally-led educational initiatives, including its work on Native language revitalization.
The Department also announced the signing of new MOUs between the Office of the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs and the American Sustainable Business Network (ASBN) to support tribally-led community based economic development entrepreneurship; with Enterprise Community Partners to support affordable housing and homeownership within tribal communities; and with the Native CDFI Network and Oweesta Corporation to increase access to financial resources and leverage opportunities for tribal communities and entrepreneurs.