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Working with Tribal Nations to Build a Brighter Future

As part of its ongoing efforts to improve relations with and conditions for Native Americans, the White House is releasing the synopsis of the 2010 White House Tribal Nations Conference. Read it here.

At the second White House Tribal Nations Conference on December 16, 2010, President Obama, numerous Cabinet Secretaries, and many senior Administration officials met with tribal leaders to continue delivering on the President’s commitment to ensure that tribal nations are full partners with his administration. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar delivered the opening remarks, laying out challenges facing the partnership between President Obama and Indian Country and emphasizing presidential initiatives in five main areas: (1) restoring tribal homelands; (2) building safer Native communities; (3) building strong, prosperous tribal economies; (4) fostering healthy communities; and (5) developing a structured and meaningful consultation policy.

President Obama also addressed the conference.  He highlighted the progress made in the nation-to-nation dialogue since last year’s White House Tribal Nations Conference, while also acknowledging that a great deal of work remains to be done in Indian country. The President emphasized the importance of improving tribal economies and increasing the number of jobs in Indian country by investing in infrastructure, expanding access to high-speed internet, and developing clean energy initiatives.  President Obama also underscored the need to continue building on advances in health care and education.  He said that addressing health disparities in Indian country was “not just a question of policy, it’s a question of our values; it’s a test of who we are as a nation.”

The President discussed the significance of specific legislative accomplishments, including enactment of the Affordable Care Act which permanently authorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the Tribal Law and Order Act which goes a long way toward making tribal communities safer, and the Claims Resolution of Act of 2010 which resolved longstanding disputes about how our government has treated, or in some cases mistreated, many in Indian Country.  Finally, the President announced that the United States supports the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  He said that the aspirations the Declaration affirms, including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples, are goals that we, as a Nation, must all seek to achieve.

Following the President’s remarks, tribal leaders participated in break-out sessions on the following topics:

  • Nation-to-Nation Relationship;
  • Education/Healthcare/Community Service;
  • Economic Development/Housing/Infrastructure;
  • Tribal Land/Cultural Protection/Natural Resources/Energy; and
  • Public Safety/Homeland Security.

To better facilitate the ongoing dialogue with Indian Country, we are releasing the Synopsis of the 2010 White House Tribal Nations Conference, which summarizes the themes and topics raised by tribal leaders in the breakout sessions. The synopsis serves as a record of the issues raised at each session and does not necessarily reflect the views of the President or the Administration. 

We thank all who participated in the 2010 White House Tribal Nations Conference. The Conference serves as a forum for informing our efforts to provide a better future for all American Indians and Alaska Natives. This administration will continue to work with all tribal nations to establish a foundation for sustainable economic growth in Indian country, address health disparities, provide sound educational opportunities, and combat violent crime so that Indian people are safe in their communities.

As the President told the conference, “[w]hat matters far more than words -- what matters far more than any resolution or declaration – are actions to match those words.  And that’s what this conference is about.”  

We look forward to future collaboration as we continue to build on the President’s actions and bring real change to Indian Country.

Kimberly Teehee is the Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs on the White House Domestic Policy Council.