By Gerald Helguero
Each of the 565 federally recognized tribes--that function legally as "domestic dependent nations" within the United States--is being invited to send one representative to a December 16 conference where participants will have the "opportunity to interact directly with the President and representatives from the highest levels of his Administration," the White House said Monday.
The December 16 event will be the second White House Tribal Nations Conference for the Obama administration. The President had made a commitment to reach out to tribes when he was campaigning for election in 2008.
At a conference with tribal leaders last November, Obama vowed to more closely engage tribes through federal agencies.
Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar--who spoke at the annual convention of the National Congress of American Indians on Monday--said that over the past year, his department had held meetings in seven cities with 300 tribal representatives and more than 250 federal officials to draft a "consultation policy" that will "soon" be submitted for review and comment to tribes.
"I expect to put our new policy in place this spring," he said. "The new policy will help tribal leaders be more engaged in policy development and will result in a process that is more transparent, comprehensive and effective."
For more on tribal summits, see Obama Breaks Promise to Indians and How to Consult with 564 Tribes.