President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Tribal Nations Summit at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, as his administration pledged $75 million in grants to relocate three tribes impacted by climate change. Photo by Ting Shen/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The Biden administration announced it will pay $75 million to relocate three Native American tribes whose communities are being impacted by climate change.
The Interior Department's relocation grants, announced at the White House Tribal Nations Summit on Wednesday, will provide $25 million each to Washington State's Quinault Indian Nation, Alaska's Newtok Village and Alaska's Native Village of Napakiak.
The Quinault Indian Nation is located on the Quinault River at the Pacific Ocean in Washington state, where the tribal community has been impacted by rising sea levels, storm surges and flooding, in addition to risks from tsunamis caused by earthquakes.
The Alaska communities are located in an area of severe erosion, which is forecast to destroy infrastructure within the next four years in Newtok. Napakiak loses about 25 to 50 feet a year to erosion, which is expected to destroy that community's critical infrastructure by 2030.
"As part of the federal government's treaty and trust responsibility to protect Tribal sovereignty and revitalize tribal communities, we must safeguard Indian Country from the intensifying and unique impacts of climate change," Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said.
"Helping these communities move to safety on their homelands is one of the most important climate related investments we could make in Indian Country."
The $75 million in grants to the three tribes is part of a $135 million commitment by the Biden administration, funded by from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, to support the relocation of tribal communities impacted by climate change.
Eight other tribal communities, including four in Alaska, one in Arizona, one in California, one in Louisiana and one in Maine, will each receive $5 million in grants.
Biden touted his administration's efforts to address the needs of Native Americans at Wednesday's summit. The president was accompanied by Haaland, who is the first Native American to serve as head of the Department of the Interior.
"Together, we are continuing to make a difference," Biden told those assembled at the White House. "We've made the largest single investment in infrastructure since [President Dwight] Eisenhower. [My administration made] the biggest investment in Native American infrastructure in history."
Biden's comments come as he signed a presidential memorandum Wednesday establishing uniform standards to be implemented across all federal agencies regarding how Tribal consultations are conducted. That announcement by Biden during his speech received a strong ovation.
The White House also announced the release of a new best-practices report to integrate Tribal treaties and reserving the rights into agency decision-making practices. The report was done in coordination with 17 federal agencies and the White House Council on Native American Affairs.
"Federal agencies should strive to reach consensus among the Tribes," Biden said. "There should be adequate time for ample communication. Tribal nations should know how their contributions are influencing decision-making.
"Everyone is entitled to be treated with respect and the dignity that comes with who you are. That is especially true with Tribal nations. The United States owes a solemn trust and treaty obligations that we haven't always lived up to."
The new tribal consultation standards were created with input received from Tribal Nations regarding Tribal consultation and ensure more consistency in how agencies initiate, provide notice for, conduct, record and report on Tribal consultations.
The memorandum will also require annual training regarding Tribal consultation for federal employees who work with Tribal Nations or on policies with Tribal implications, the White House said.
The White House said Tribal communities have been designated $32 billion from the American Rescue Plan, $13 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and $700 million in the Inflation Reduction Act.