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Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo Addresses White House Tribal Nations Summit and Announces New Commerce Department Efforts that Support Tribal Communities

Yesterday, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo virtually addressed the second White House Tribal Nations Summit and highlighted the Commerce Department’s efforts and commitment to ensuring that Tribal communities have the resources they need for economic growth including access to high-speed Internet.

During her remarks, Secretary Raimondo announced the appointment of Shaun Deschene as the Commerce Department’s new Director of the Office of Native American Business Development.

“I’m thrilled that the Commerce Department has brought on Shaun Deschene to serve as our Director of the Office of Native American Business Development within the Office of the Secretary, a position that had been vacant for more than a decade,” said Secretary Raimondo. “The office is elevating our department’s work in Indian Country and aligning our efforts with President Biden’s strong agenda for Tribal nations.”

Secretary Raimondo also announced that the Commerce Department will formally join the Joint Secretarial Order on Fulfilling the Trust Responsibility to Indian Tribes in the Stewardship of Federal Lands and Waters. This commitment furthers an all-of-government approach to co-stewardship and ensures that additional agencies—like Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration —will further co-stewardship goals in their management of waters, fisheries, and other resources of significance and value to Tribes.

During her address, Secretary Raimondo also highlighted Commerce’s commitment to ensuring that Tribal communities have access to high-speed Internet. Through Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, Commerce has awarded over $1.5 billion to more than a hundred Tribal entities to expand high-speed internet network deployment and digital skills training.

“For too long, Tribal communities have been cut off from the benefits of reliable, affordable internet connections, “said Raimondo. “These grants – made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – underscore the Biden Administration’s unprecedented commitment to closing the digital divide in Native communities.”

Through the American Rescue Plan, Commerce also has invested nearly $500 million – a historic amount - to support Indigenous communities. This funding is addressing a range of needs, from wastewater infrastructure to job training.

In addition to her participation in the White House Tribal Nations Summit, Secretary Raimondo closed out Native American History month at the Commerce Department earlier this week and addressed employees and Tribal leaders at an all-day Tribal Open House. The event showcased the incredible work by Commerce bureaus to assist the Native American community.

“As you can see today, our bureaus are working on multiple fronts to connect Tribes to funding for long-term, sustainable economic development,” said Raimondo. “Together, we can bring opportunity to our Tribal communities and ensure that Tribal businesses and workers are equipped for success.”

For more information on other key announcements at the summit, please see the White House fact sheet.