PBCI visited by Secretary of the Interior

Published 12:28 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2024

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians was one of several tribes visited by national Secretary of the Interior Sandra Haaland this week.

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland wrapped up a multi-day trip through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on Tuesday, where she met with several Tribes to highlight how historic resources from the Biden-Harris administration are supporting Indigenous communities. Throughout the trip, she reinforced the Interior Department’s ongoing work to advance equity and social justice, including efforts to help tell a more complete story of America.

In Louisiana, Secretary Haaland visited the Chitimacha Tribe, Coushatta Tribe, Tunica-Biloxi Tribe, and Jena Band of Choctaw Indians. During each visit, she heard from Tribal members about ongoing work to invest in each community’s infrastructure and the impact that funding from the Biden-Harris administration has had to provide the support and resources for each Tribe to thrive.

The Chitimacha Tribe received a $5 million grant through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, a key part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, as part of the Department’s Voluntary Community-Driven Relocation Program. The grant will support the Tribe’s planning of a “protect-in-place” resilience infrastructure projects as well as a long-term climate impact resilience strategy.

During her visit to the Coushatta Tribe, Secretary Haaland met with the Tribe’s Youth Council and toured projects to proactively restore the community’s lands, waters and ecosystems. This work helps further the goals of the Indian Youth Service Corps, a partner-based program launched by Secretary Haaland to provide Indigenous youth with meaningful, Tribally led public service opportunities to support the conservation and protection of natural and cultural resources, and other programs supporting the next generation of conservation and climate stewards.

In meetings with the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe and the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, the Tribes discussed their continued efforts to bring land-into-trust. At the 2023 White House Tribal Nations Summit, the Department’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs announced a final rule to update the federal regulations governing fee-to-trust, or land-into-trust, acquisitions that transfer land title to the United States to be held in trust for the benefit of a Tribe or individual Tribal citizen. Consistent with President Biden’s commitment to make it easier for Tribes to place land into trust, this final rule will make this process simpler, more efficient, and less expensive.

In Mississippi, Secretary Haaland and Bureau of Indian Education Director Tony Dearman visited with Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, which operates the largest unified reservation school system in the United States, consisting of six elementary schools as well as a middle school, and high school. They toured the site of Tribe’s new Choctaw Central Middle and High School campus, which broke ground late last year on land that was recently brought into trust status. The new campus will include a state-of-the-art media center, labs, over 70 classrooms, a new basketball arena and football field.

Secretary Haaland met with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama, where they discussed how President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda is helping fund the Tribe’s infrastructure projects to provide better services for its members and the surrounding community.

As part of the Department’s efforts to honor and tell a more complete story of America’s history, Secretary Haaland, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget Joan Mooney visited sites to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement.

In Birmingham, the group joined Mayor Randall Woodfin at the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. Established in 2017, the National Monument preserves and interprets the events, stories, and places associated with the nonviolent struggle against racial segregation in Birmingham, during the mid-20th century. The site includes the A.G. Gaston Motel, which served as the headquarters for the Birmingham campaign, as well as the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. The Legacy Restoration Fund of the Great American Outdoors Act is funding a $5.6 million rehabilitation the A.G. Gaston Motel to make the site more accessible.