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FARMINGTON — The Trump administration has relaunched the White House Council on Native American Affairs, a unit created in 2013 to further the executive branch's relationship with federally recognized tribes.

The U.S. Department of the Interior, in coordination with the administration, announced the council's re-establishment on April 28.

The council was formed by an executive order signed by President Obama in June 2013 to advance government-to-government relations and consultation between the White House and tribal leaders.

It, and the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, ceased after President Trump took office in 2017.

The Interior Department press release states the council "will help drive" the administration's policy priorities and continue the work of the Indian Country COVID-19 Response Team, which was assembled last month.

Tyler Fish will serve as the council's executive director starting on May 4. Fish has been the senior policy advisor and tribal liaison for the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs since July 2019.

Leaders on the Navajo Nation welcomed the council's return and the selection of Fish, who is Muscogee-Creek and Cherokee.

Vice President Myron Lizer remarked about the council during an online town hall meeting on April 29.

The council will help drive policies and procedures by the Trump administration for economic and energy developments, public health, education, public safety and veterans' affairs in Indian Country, he said.

Lizer, who has attended rallies held by Trump in Albuquerque and Phoenix, sent best wishes to Fish on behalf of himself and tribal President Jonathan Nez.

Speaker Seth Damon and Navajo Nation Council Delegates Eugenia Charles-Newton and Mark Freeland congratulated Fish in a press release.

"With the appointment of Tyler Fish to lead this critical effort, we know the issues unique to Indian Country will continue to be well-represented in the administration's priorities," Damon said.

Charles-Newton, who represents Shiprock Chapter, thanked Fish for his advocacy and work.

"This is a great opportunity for Navajo leaders to connect directly with our national counterparts to further Navajo sovereignty," she said.

According to the release, Fish and other administration officials are working with the Speaker's Office to schedule a teleconference for chapter governments to provide updates to the White House.

"Details will be forthcoming from legislative branch staff," the release states.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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