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Tribal Nations Conference (part 2)

November 9, 2009

As I mentioned in my last two blog posts, on November 5 the White House hosted a nation-to-nation conference with representatives from each of the 564 federally recognized tribes in the United States. This all-day event included participation by the members of Congress, the current administration and the President. It was a great opportunity for dialogue between nations and a symbol of the change in policy the President is committed to in the U.S. government’s relationship with our country’s native citizens.

The event was opened and closed by President Obama, beginning with a speech and interactive session. However, as the President said, “the most important opportunity that you will have today is to interact directly with the department heads, the secretaries who are in charge of implementation on a whole range of these issues.” He urged tribal leaders to “present to them your concerns, your specific recommendations. They are here to listen and to learn and to advise.” A range of topics were discussed over the course of the day, including our current key legislative opportunities:tribal law and order, and health care. At the White House website, you can watch videos from the different panels:

If you are unable to watch streamed videos on your computer, I highly recommend at least reading the text from Obama’s opening statement and interactive session. Here are a couple of choice snippets that relate to some of the issues we work on:

“More than half of all Native Americans and Alaska Natives, especially those in remote areas with limited access to care, rely on the Indian Health Service for their most basic needs. And that’s why we invested $500 million under the Recovery Act in strength-ening and modernizing the IHS, and that’s why my budget proposes an increase of 13 percent in IHS funding.”

“Up to 15 percent of our potential wind energy resources are on Native American land, and the potential for solar energy is even higher. But too often, you face unique hurdles to developing these renewable resources. That’s why I’m very proud … [w]e’re stream-lining and expediting the permit process for energy development and transmission across tribal lands. We are securing tribal access to financing and investments for new energy projects. And thanks to the Recovery Act, we’ve established an Energy Auditor Training Program that could prepare Native Americans for the green jobs of the future.”

“The shocking and contemptible fact that one in three Native American women will be raped in their lifetimes is an assault on our national conscience that we can no longer ignore. … I strongly support the Tribal Law and Order Act, and I thank Chairman Dorgan and Represen-tative Herseth-Sandlin for their leadership on this issue. And I look forward to Congress passing it so I can sign it into law.”

I was really impressed by him when reading his remarks. His words were inspiring and his message felt sincere. I also want to point out, because I certainly noticed it, that when taking questions and comments Obama was careful to call on roughly equal parts men and women. What a guy!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2009 8:35 pm

    Thank you for your report. Obama is quite a guy. One comment in Indian Country Today was by State Recognized tribes (but not Fed. recognized) who were not invited to this Conference. I hope in the future that Obama includes representatives from these tribes also.

  2. November 10, 2009 11:30 pm

    All indigenous people around the world and here in this country should be considered International Cultural Treasures to be protected and preserved in a manner they wish to be. We should have a Council or Congress of Indigenous People to advise on environmental and cultural matters and some of our most pristine national parks should be preserved and managed by them. The marginalization of these people should be reversed here and throughout the world with similar UN Representation.

  3. November 11, 2009 3:54 am

    I too add my thanks for your important report. Even though I belong to NMAI and receive numerous e-mails from them, I don't recall hearing about this important conference and outreach to Native Peoples by the Obama administration either from them nor on the news, local or national. It should have been fully covered by the national media. Having lived in Hawaii I'm sure had an impact on him and makes him, hopefully, more sensitive to the problems and struggles Native Americans face.

  4. November 12, 2009 6:11 pm

    Having just spent the past weekend with Elders from the Navajo nation at the annual Adopt-A-Native Elder Annual Rug Show in Park City, Utah, I can only concur that I am thankful that the Obama administration is working on issues of this sort. I am proud to work with the elders and know that they have a wonderful and beautiful heritage that they are preserving through their children. I support any efforts to reach out to our Native American brothers and sisters.

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