Jill Biden visits Navajo Nation to hear concerns, pledge support of administration

The Biden administration has made it a point to address various issues confronted by Native Americans, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

First lady Jill Biden just concluded a two-day visit to the Navajo Nation in Arizona where she met with tribal leaders to discuss what was needed for them to survive and thrive in the future, the Associated Press reported.

This was Biden’s third visit to the largest Native American reservation in the United States, with land that stretches across Arizona, New Mexico and a portion of Utah. Her last visit came in 2019 to raise awareness of health concerns faced by members of the tribe and solicit financial support for a new cancer treatment center that was built on the reservation.

Meeting with top Navajo leaders

The first lady spent her first day at the Navajo Nation meeting with female leaders of the tribe, such as first lady Phefelia Nez, wife of Navajo President Jonathan Nez, and second lady Dottie Lizer, wife of Navajo Vice President Myron Lizer, among others, at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, according to the AP.

Issues that were discussed included the need for more education and literacy for members of the tribe, as well as concerns over domestic violence and women who were missing.

Another major topic was the ongoing pandemic, which initially hit the reservation hard, how things had slowly begun to improve, though strict mitigation protocols were still in place and the tribe was moving slower than most states in terms of reopening and returning to normal.

It was noted, however, that nearly 50% of those living on the reservation have been fully vaccinated, a rate that is nearly twice as much as the rest of the country.

Cancer a major issue for Navajo Nation

Due to the Biden family’s own history with the disease, the first lady paid particular attention to the high rate of cancer within the Navajo Nation — likely a byproduct of being downwind of former nuclear testing grounds as well as the preponderance of old uranium mines on the reservation, the Arizona Republic reported.

Biden also touted the economic benefits the tribe could expect to receive if her husband was able to see his proposed American Jobs Plan passed through Congress.

In addition to the serious discussions with local leaders, the paper noted that the first lady was also treated to a tour of the area and took part in various cultural ceremonies observed by the tribe.

Summit with Tribal Leaders announced

Meanwhile, back at the White House, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took part in the first meeting of the administration of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, a group first established in 2013 and comprised of 10 cabinet secretaries and other senior officials from a variety of departments and agencies.

The council discussed ways in which it would address pertinent issues of concern to the 574 federally recognized tribal nations within the U.S. and announced a Tribal Leaders Summit that will be held at the White House at some point later this year.

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