Indian Affairs | White House Council on Native American Affairs

White House Council on Native American Affairs

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 White House Council on Native American Affairs

Prosperity and resilience for all tribal nations is the vision of the White House Council on Native American Affairs (WHCNAA).  The WHCNAA endeavors toward this vision through collaborative inter-agency work across the Executive Branch, by fostering an all-of-government approach in meeting treaty and trust obligations to tribes.  

The WHCNAA creates a more efficient federal government for Indian Country through greater inter-agency coordination.   Chaired by the Secretary of the Interior, WHCNAA membership consists of heads of federal Departments, Agencies, and Offices, with an Executive Director and inter-agency staff carrying forward WHCNAA priorities.  The priorities revolve, generally, around promoting tribal self-determination and tribal self-governance.  

Consistent and substantive engagement between the WHCNAA and tribal leaders sets the foundation for effective federal investments in tribal communities and for effective policies that impact tribes.  Many instances exist for WHCNAA dialogue with tribal leaders, such as the WHCNAA principals meetings and through WHCNAA subgroups.

The WHCNAA Chair convenes the principals at least three times a year per Executive Order 13647 (June 2013).  WHCNAA Chair Secretary Jewell set the precedent for tribal leader attendance and participation at the principals meetings.   The value of tribal leaders attending and having direct input into the WHCNAA processes cannot be overstated.  Tribal leader attendance at the principals meetings is coordinated through the WHCNAA subgroups.

To coordinate inter-agency work centered on topic issues, six WHCNAA subgroups have been created.  Certain agencies lead or co-lead each subgroup comprised of several other agencies as members.  The subgroups intend to produce deliverables and tools, make policy recommendations, and find ways to leverage resources and expertise among agencies to improve services to Indian Country.  The subgroups meet regularly and provide reports at each of the WHCNAA principals meetings.  The subgroups also coordinate tribal leader participation
at the principals meeting.


 Subgroups of the White House Council on Native American Affairs

Economic Development & Infrastructure Subgroup

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) co-lead the subgroup with participation from Treasury, HUD, Commerce, Transportation, Labor, DOE, DOI, and others. The subgroup creates, improves, and promotes opportunities for economic development for tribes and American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN).  The subgroup also works across agencies to address wide-ranging aspects of improving infrastructure in Indian Country.  The subgroup promotes existing federal programs that support economic development and explores new investment models for tribes via specific financing options.  

The subgroup has worked to improve financial education in Indian Country, organize resources for housing and community development (, increase exposure to apprenticeship opportunities, and explore ways to streamline resources for feasibility studies and improving technical capacity for tribes. Moving forward, the subgroup will continue focusing on efforts to improve job/workforce development, the economic possibilities presented by the recently passed NATIVE Act, and tribal engagement.

Health & Wellness Subgroup         

The Health and Wellness subgroup is being led by U. S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and was established in response to feedback from tribal leaders. The goal of the subgroup is improved interagency collaboration and coordination to prevent health problems and address health issues to strengthen Native families and support tribal communities. The subgroup has developed an inter-agency trauma initiative to improve awareness of the impacts of trauma among federal executives, senior leaders, and employees by initiating collaborations across programs and building the capacity for supporting trauma-informed services and practices.  The subgroup has also focused on enrollment in the Affordable Care Act for tribal communities. In addition to HHS, USDA, DOI, DOJ, the White House and other agencies/offices contribute to the subgroup’s work. 

Education & Native Youth Subgroup           

The Education and Native Youth subgroup with the co-leads of Department of Interior and the Department of Education focused early attention to the reform of the Bureau of Indian Education. The White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education (WHIANANE), housed in the Dept. of Education, leads initiatives relating to Native Youth Community Projects and Native language rejuvenation efforts in schools.  Additionally, as part of this subgroup Health and Human Services is taking the lead to continue and sustain President Obama’s Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) program.  The subgroup continues to set goals and priorities in response to tribal leader input received during the 2016 White House Tribal Leaders Conference.

Energy Subgroup              

The Energy subgroup with co-leads of Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior works to identify areas where federal agencies can collaborate to support tribal energy development, including financial and technical assistance programs, workforce development, regulatory streamlining, federal procurement, and project support.  The subgroup prioritized information for Indian tribes through an online tool called the “Federal Grant, Loan, and Technical Assistance Programs for Tribal Energy Development” ( The online tool provides a centralized repository of federal funding and technical assistance programs and information about the major energy, energy infrastructure, economic development, and environmental programs and regulations that support energy development and deployment in Indian Country and Alaska Native villages. In June 2016, DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs and DOI Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development entered into an MOU to share knowledge and exchange information, facilitate training and services, enter into contracts and other agreements, focus on capacity building, and conduct other activities as agreed to by the participants; DOE and DOI will be exploring adding more agencies to the MOU. 

Environment, Climate Change, and Natural Resources Subgroup        

The Environment, Climate Change, and Natural Resources subgroup with co-leads U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency focus on protecting natural environments for tribal communities, including mitigation efforts against the devastating effects of climate change for some tribes, and the protection and management of natural resources for tribes. The subgroup has developed Federal Tribal Climate Change Resource Guide that links to partners, tools, opportunities, funding, products, and services available to tribes to support climate adaptation planning and mitigation. The guide has participation from federal partners including National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Defense (DOD), Center for Disease Control (CDC), USDA, EPA, and several DOI bureaus, and custom tribal pages.  

The subgroup has also pursued local science-based approaches to combating climate change, through efforts like the Local Environmental Observers (LEO) Network, which is a network of local observers and topic experts who share knowledge about unusual animal, environment, and weather events. With LEO, users can connect with others in their community, share observations, raise awareness, and find answers about significant environmental events. Users can also engage with topic experts in many different organizations and become part of a broader observer community.

Lastly, nine Cabinet members and heads of offices signed an interagency MOU on the protection of tribal treaty rights on natural resources in federal decision-making ( A working group has formed from this MOU to further the MOU’s implementation.   

Public Safety & Justice Subgroup

The Department of Justice and Department of the Interior co-chair the subgroup. The Departments formed the Subgroup in response to the needs expressed by tribal leaders for the WHCNAA to concentrate on the unique legal and public safety concerns facing Indian Country, such as jurisdictional matters, violence in Indian Country, infrastructure, training and capacity for tribal police and judicial systems, etc.  The subgroup assembles other critical agencies and leverages collective knowledge and resources of subgroup members, approaching public safety issues from an inter-agency perspective. The subgroup will also ensure that input from tribal representatives informs the identification and treatment of issues under consideration, such as violence against women and girls in tribal communities, curbing recidivism, and strengthening tribal policing capacity.


White House Tribal Nations Conference Reports

~ 2010 White House Tribal Nations Conference Progress Report: Forging a New and Better Future together

~ 2011 White House Tribal Nations Conference Progress Report: Achieving a Brighter future for Tribal Nations   

~ 2012 White House Tribal Nations Conference: Continuing the Progress in Tribal Communities

~ 2013 White House Tribal Nations Conference Progress Report

~ 2014 White House Tribal Nations Conference Progress Report: Investing in the Future of Tribal Nations

~ 2015 White House Tribal Nations Conference Progress Report: Building Prosperous & Resilient Tribal Nations

~ 2016 White House Tribal Nations Conference Progress Report: A Renewed Era of Federal-Tribal Relations