Interior Department Strengthens Public-Private Partnerships To Benefit Indian Country

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ahead of the 2023 White House Tribal Nation Summit, the Department of the Interior hosted Native Americans in Philanthropy and other funding partners, philanthropic leaders, Indigenous-focused organizations, and non-profit organizations invested in the success of Native communities. Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland announced new initiatives to strengthen public-private partnerships that will benefit tribal communities and invest in Indigenous youth.

“Public-private partnerships are essential to leveraging historic federal investments and will help quickly deploy resources to Indigenous communities,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “These opportunities don’t just address the unique challenges Indian Country faces, but also serve to empower the next generation of Indigenous leaders. Today’s announcements reaffirm our commitment to ensuring tribes have the support and resources they need to invest in their communities.”

“Today, we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Office of Strategic Partnerships,” said Assistant Secretary Newland. “We are so impressed by the work that the office has accomplished since we stood together last year to announce its establishment. It makes me so proud to know that the investments and partnerships we are fostering will outlast any one secretary or administration. Together, we are creating a path of support for Indigenous communities that is undeniable.”

The 2023 White House Tribal Nations Summit provides an opportunity for the Biden-Harris administration and tribal leaders from the 574 federally recognized tribes to discuss ways the federal government can invest in and strengthen nation-to-nation relationships, as well as ensure that progress in Indian Country endures for years to come. 

New Resources to Address Legacy of Federal Indian Boarding Schools

Assistant Secretary Newland announced that the Mellon Foundation has granted more than $2.5 million in funding to help support the oral history project launched as part of the Department’s Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. This first-of-its-kind undertaking for the U.S. government will facilitate the collection of a permanent oral history from survivors of the federal Indian boarding school system. This is part of the Department’s ongoing work to tell the story of the era of federal Indian boarding school and the federal government’s role in establishing the system. The Department and Smithsonian National Museum of American History are in ongoing discussions about how to support this work.

Survivors will have the opportunity to make their interviews available to federal partners, tribal governments, policymakers and researchers, and the public.

New Initiative with AmeriCorps to Support the Indian Youth Service Corps

A new initiative between the Interior Department and AmeriCorps will expand access to Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards as a post-program benefit after completion of service in the Indian Youth Service Corps Program (IYSC).  

This new partnership with AmeriCorps will expand access to post-secondary education, support for college tuition payment, opportunities at technical vocational training schools, and student loan debt repayment options. The partnership will streamline the application process for tribal nations, as well as non-profit youth serving tribal-affiliated organizations to make these benefits more accessible to tribal youth.

The IYSC, announced by Secretary Haaland in June 2022, is a partner-based program designed to provide Indigenous youth with meaningful, tribally led public service opportunities to support the conservation and protection of natural and cultural resources through construction, restoration or rehabilitation of natural, cultural, historic, archaeological, recreational or scenic resources. Earlier this year, Secretary Haaland announced a $15 million commitment through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to the IYSC and other programs supporting the next generation of conservation and climate stewards.

New Partnership with the Aspen Institute to Enhance Indigenous Youth Engagement

The Department has executed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions, Fresh Tracks Program to support Indigenous youth engagement, education and employment initiatives, as well as maximize the benefits of shared learning and resources on strategies and policies. The MOU, signed by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget Joan Mooney, also aims to efficiently and equitably coordinate philanthropic, private sector, and federal funding to support community-led initiatives.

The Aspen Program is currently partnering with the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the Native Youth Climate Adaptation Congress. Strengthening this partnership will provide an opportunity for further collaboration with the Department’s bureaus to support IYSC and other youth programs serving underserved communities.

New partnerships with AmeriCorps and the Aspen Institute will be facilitated in collaboration with the Interior Department’s youth programs and Office of Strategic Partnerships, which was launched during the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit to assist with building partnerships, leveraging resources, and promoting innovative solutions for Indian Country.