During this year’s White House Tribal Nations Summit, President Biden announced that the Department of the Interior would award three Native American tribes $75 million to relocate from coastal areas and move inland to avoid climate-related flooding, the New York Times reported.
The Newtok Village and Native Village of Napakiak in Alaska and the Quinault Indian Nation in Washington, will each receive $25 million to move the tribes’ main buildings and homes away from encroaching waters.
The White House will also provide another $5 million each to eight more tribes to help them “consider” whether they should relocate, according to the Times.
According to theDepartment of the Interior, tribes located in Alaska are at risk of coastal erosion, extreme weather disasters, and rising waters due to climate change.
“We must safeguard Indian Country from the intensifying and unique impacts of climate change,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. “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 Quinault Nation vice president and National Congress of American Indians president, Fawn Sharp, stated that the grant money would be used to move the Quinault Indian Nation to higher ground and build a new community center that will provide health and wellness services and function as a venue for general council meetings and an emergency evacuation shelter.
Sharp insisted that the $25 million grant awarded to the tribe would only cover one-quarter of the total relocation costs.
According to a 2020 Bureau of Indian Affairs study, over the next five decades, an estimated $5 billion will be needed to move Native American tribes facing climate-related disasters.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs held a competition earlier this year where tribes applied to receive up to $3 million in relocation funds. Of the 11 tribes that applied, only five received the aid. The bureau would not reveal how it decided which tribes were awarded the relocation money.
During the summit, Biden stated, “There are tribal communities at risk of being washed away.” The president noted that the grants would allow the tribes to “move, in some cases, their entire communities back to safer ground.”
Officials reported that the funds going to the tribes would create a blueprint for moving other vulnerable communities in the future.