NCAI, along with 65 tribes and tribal organizations, recently sent a jointly signed letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, that “outlines the risk of deep sequestration cuts to the already underfunded federal responsibilities to tribal nations,” a NCAI press release stated.
“Tribal nations are part of the American family of governments, and we know everyone in that family must identify budget efficiencies to keep America moving forward. However, the federal responsibility to tribal nations is not driving the deficit. In fact tribal programs, as part of the discretionary budget, have already done their part to reduce the deficit following the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles commission and enacted through the bipartisan Budget Control Act. Federal responsibilities are already significantly underfunded and the problems we are working hard to confront will only be exacerbated if treaty obligations are treated as line items,” said Jefferson Keel, president of NCAI.
By Rob Capriccioso
The meeting, held at the U.S. Department of the Interior headquarters blocks away from the White House, signified a kept promise by Obama, who told Native Americans when he was first running for president in 2008 that he would regularly meet with them in an effort to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship between tribes and the United States.
By most accounts the meetings to date have been useful, with tribal leaders having had the opportunity to discuss and highlight sovereignty, culture, self-determination, and economic concerns. Even administration organizers admit, however, that it is difficult to address the vast needs of the 566 federally-recognized tribes in a single yearly meeting, which is why the administration and some of its agencies have regularly held smaller tribal events and meetings throughout Obama’s first term—a trend that is expected to continue over the next four years. The hope is that future presidents will keep that ball rolling as well.
The president is scheduled to address the tribal leaders today at 3 p.m. ET.
By Justin Sink
"Think about it for a second," Cladoosby said. "The president loves basketball. He has an Indian name, he knows what it's like to be poor and he hasn't forgotten where he came from. And his theme song is 'Hail to the Chief.' I think he definitely qualifies as the first American Indian president. "
The president was addressing more than 500 tribal leaders gathered in Washington for the Tribal Nations Conference. In addition to the president, eight Cabinet members, including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, addressed the crowd.
Obama received an enthusiastic welcome and spoke to the leaders about his administration's efforts to aid Native American communities, including "expanding economic opportunities" and an anti-domestic violence effort. He also called on Congress to support Native American small businesses.
"We’re going to keep working together to make sure that the promise of America is fully realized for every Native American," Obama said.
By Matt Compton
The President celebrated what he called Sonny Black Eagle's "remarkable life."
After losing his mother to tuberculosis, Black Eagle was raised by his grandparents in Montana, who taught him both the traditions and the language of the Crow people. As a child, however, Black Eagle had to contend with teachers who would strike him for speaking Crow in school, and as a young man, he was confronted by racism and segregation.
"Sonny, like many of you, knew intolerance and knew injustice. He knew what it was like to be persecuted for who you are and what you believe," the President said. "But as time went by, year by year, decade by decade, as Native Americans rallied together and marched together, as students descended on Alcatraz and activists held their ground at Frank’s Landing, as respect and appreciation for your unique heritage grew and a seminal struggle played itself out, Sonny lived to see something else. He saw a new beginning."
That new beginning took the shape of a different policy from the U.S. government--one that allowed tribal governments to build out stronger institutions and Native Americans to embrace self-determination.
And in his four years in the White House, it's a policy on which President Obama has worked to build.
Comment: For more on the tribal summits, see Heritage Month and Tribal Summit and Limited Gushing at Tribal Summit.