Blog Posts Related to the Native American Community

  • A Long Overdue Policy Change to Recognize the Sovereignty of Tribal Governments

    As demonstrated time and time again through many disasters across America, emergency management requires a team effort. Our country's tribal nations and leaders are an essential part of the team. The Obama administration has long been committed to supporting Indian Country in efforts to build resilient communities, prepared for all hazards.

    Last week, on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the administration, I met with tribal leaders as a participant in the 2011 Tribal Nations Conference hosted by the White House. The goal of this multi-day event was to continue an honest, meaningful discussion between tribal leadership, the administration and federal agencies, to listen, learn and explore how we can continue to strengthen our government-to-government relationship.

    During these conversations, I had the opportunity to announce -- consistent with our strong government-to-government relationship and after a lengthy review process -- that the administration supports amending the Stafford Act to allow federally recognized tribal governments to make a request directly to the president for a federal emergency or disaster declaration. Under current law, only states, through the governor, can make such requests. 

    Amending this legislation will acknowledge the sovereignty of federally recognized tribes and the trust responsibility of the United States, enhance FEMA's working relationship with tribal governments, and improve emergency responsiveness throughout Indian Country. 

    Craig Fugate is the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

  • President Obama Meets with Tribal Leaders

    On December 2, 2011, following the 2011 White House Tribal Nations Conference, President Obama met with a small and regionally diverse group of tribal leaders from across Indian Country.  Also participating in the meeting were Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli. 

    The tribal leaders in attendance had the opportunity to directly engage with the President on a leader-to-leader, government-to-government basis. They spoke about economic issues affecting their reservations and proposed some innovative solutions for developing sustainable economies focusing on building solar and wind projects, reducing regulatory burdens, expanding broadband and leveraging private sector investment, among others.  Also discussed was the Executive Order on Improving American Indian and Alaska Native Educational Opportunities and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities, which the President signed earlier in the day to improve education opportunities for Native American youth across the country.

    The twelve tribal leaders that participated in the meeting were Fawn Sharpe, President, Quinault Indian Nation; Diane Enos, President, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community; Steve Ortiz, Chairman, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation; Jefferson Keel, Lt. Governor, Chickasaw Nation; Nelson Cordova, Governor, Pueblo of Taos; George Edwardson, President, Inupiat Community of Arctic Slope; Ben Shelly, President, Navajo Nation; Richard Milanovich, Chairman, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians; Colley Billie, Chairman, Miccosukee Indian Tribe; Tracy “Ching” King, President, Fort Belknap Indian Community; Rodney Bordeaux, President, Rosebud Sioux Tribe; and Erma Vizenor, Chairwoman, White Earth Band of Chippewa.

    This meeting took place after a week of White House events that focused on strengthening the government-to-government relationship between the United States and Tribal Nations and building on the progress made during the 2009 and 2010 White House Tribal Nations Conferences. In addition to the President’s meeting, the White House hosted a series of Regional briefings and listening sessions for tribal leaders, highlighted 11 Native American youth as Champions of Change, released a White House Tribal Nations Conference Progress Report  and at the Tribal Nations Conference the President spoke to representatives from the 565 federally recognized Indian tribes.

  • Obama Administration Investment Promotes Job Growth and Mitigates Environmental Risk in Tribal Communities

    This year, President Obama hosted the third White House Tribal Nations Conference to hear directly from tribal leaders about their priorities. I had the opportunity to address some of the representatives of federally recognized tribes during a series of briefings and listening sessions hosted by the White House.

    The President is committed to strengthening the government-to-government relationship with Indian Country and partnering and investing to find solutions to complex issues and to win the future for Indian Country.

    Environmental challenges are affecting tribal economies. The Obama Administration has taken significant steps to mitigate environmental risks and strengthen the capacity of reservations to meet the training and economic needs of their communities.

    Native Americans living on reservations experience higher incidences of environmentally-related health issues than other groups, including in the upper Missouri River basin. This includes 19 reservations in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, along the Missouri River system and its tributaries where minerals and wildlife are abundant both in water and on land. Unfortunately, as concerns about the environment have plagued these communities, the response has not been timely or meaningful. These are areas of the country where the norm is economic depression and generational unemployment. In some cases unemployment rates approach 90 percent. The impacts of environmental degradation have contributed to stagnant business growth in these rural communities and severely limited opportunities for workers.

    One major problem is the lack of qualified technicians to tackle these environmental issues. According to data from the 2005 Bureau of Indian Affairs Labor Report, approximately 240,000 residents inhabit these tribal areas but only about 140,000 of them are available for the workforce.

    Recently, a $1.6 million Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge award was presented to United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck, North Dakota, for the Upper Missouri Tribal Environmental Risk Mitigation (UM‐TERM) cluster to help accelerate jobs and business development in natural resources and reduce unemployment in economically distressed tribal areas. The cluster leverages existing resources of Tribal Colleges, the Native American Business Enterprise Center funded by Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), and tribal Planners. The project is expected to provide training and education for 1,045 participants, creating a sustainable network of approximately 120 regional environmental technicians, and 15 new minority‐owned businesses.

  • President Obama at the Tribal Nations Conference

    20111202 POTUS Tribal Nations

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the 2011 Tribal Nations Conference at the Department of Interior, Washington, D.C., Dec. 2, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today, for the third year, President Obama hosted the White House Tribal Nations Conference here in Washington, DC. The goal of the event is to provide leaders from America's 565 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with members of the Obama administration -- including the President. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and OMB Deputy Director Heather Higginbottom were all in attendance.

    Speaking at the close of the conference, President Obama discussed the work he's done to improve communications between tribal nations and the federal government -- and his commitment to helping Indian communities realize prosperous futures. It's a set of changes that is starting to take effect:

    While our work together is far from over, today we can see what change looks like.  It's the Native American-owned small business that's opening its doors, or a worker helping a school renovate.  It’s new roads and houses.  It’s wind turbines going up on tribal lands, and crime going down in tribal communities. That’s what change looks like.

    Before his remarks, President Obama signed an executive order to expand educational opportunities for First American students aimed helping to preserve Native languages, cultures, and histories, while ensuring that these young people are prepared for colleges and careers. Read the order here.

    20111202 POTUS Tribal Nations Parents

    President Barack Obama is joined onstage by his adopted Native American parents, Hartford "Sonny" Black Eagle and Mary Black Eagle, during the 2011 Tribal Nations Conference at the Department of Interior, Washington, D.C., Dec. 2, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Native American Youth 'Champions of Change' Come to Washington

    Last summer at the UNITY youth conference in Minneapolis, President Obama issued a challenge to young people across Indian Country – send us your stories of leadership and service in your communities and representatives from across the country would be invited to the White House to share those stories.

    Hundreds across Indian Country answered that challenge and yesterday 11 young Native American "Champions of Change" came to the White House to share their stories of leadership and service. They are being honored as Champions of Change because they have found unique and creative ways to address the daily challenges that face American Indians and Alaska Natives in diverse communities across America.  On Friday, these leaders of tomorrow will attend the 2011 White House Tribal Nations Conference to learn firsthand about the issues and challenges that are currently facing Indian Country.

    From Alaska to Connecticut, these 11 young people have worked to improve their communities with unique talents, including building suicide prevention programs, preserving traditions and languages, creating sustainable development practices to preventing bullying and building safer communities. They exemplify how thousands of other Native American youth across the country are improving life in their own communities. Their stories and their plans for tomorrow demonstrate the spirit of a generation that is working hard to win the future for Indian Country.

    Each of them shared their unique stories of leadership and community service during a White House event on Thursday, December 1, 2011. Click here to watch the full event, or check out the video below.

  • Honoring American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans

    Tribal Nations Conference

    President Barack Obama greets people following his remarks during the opening session of the Tribal Nations Conference at the U.S. Department of Interior in Washington, D.C., Dec. 16, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    During November, National Native American Heritage Month, we commemorate the enduring achievements of American Indians and Alaska Natives and reaffirm the vital role American Indians and Alaska Natives play in enriching the character of our Nation.This Friday, our Nation comes together to honor our veterans and commemorate the legacy of profound service and sacrifice they have upheld in pursuit of a more perfect Union. In Indian Country as well, we pay tribute to our veterans, to the fallen, and to their families.

    American Indians and Alaska Natives bravely fought to protect this country as members of our Armed Forces, from the American Revolution to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The courage these veterans have shown, the sacrifices they have made for their families and communities are a powerful reminder of the rich heritage and myriad contributions that American Indians and Alaska Natives have made to our country’s heritage.

  • Celebrating American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month

    Ed note: This blog was cross-posted from the Department of Justice.

    Celebrating American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month

    Mr. Dennis W. Zotigh delivers remarks before he performs a cultural piece at the commemoration. (Photo from the Department of Justice)

    This week the Department of Justice held a special event in the Great Hall commemorating National Native American Heritage Month. Each November, the department honors the cultural traditions, contributions and history of America’s indigenous peoples in honor of their many sacrifices and contributions to our nation’s well-being. 

  • National Native American Heritage Month and the White House Tribal Nations Conference

    Today, I along with several of my colleagues in the Administration are hosting a listening session at the National Congress of American Indians convention to kick off National Native American Heritage Month and to hear directly from tribal leaders about their priorities for discussion at the 2011 White House Tribal Nations Conference.  

    As you may have already heard, the President, along with members of the Cabinet, Senior Administration officials, and tribal leaders will gather at the 2011 White House Tribal Nations Conference on December 2nd. As part of President Obama’s ongoing outreach to the American people, this conference will provide leaders from the 565 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with the President and representatives from the highest levels of his Administration. Each federally recognized tribe will be invited to send one representative to the conference. 

    This will be the third White House Tribal Nations Conference for the Obama Administration, and continues to build upon the President’s commitment to strengthen the government to government relationship with Indian Country.  Throughout the month of November, the Administration will be consulting with tribal leaders to plan for the 2011 Tribal Nations Conference.  In addition, many federal agencies across the Administration will be hosting their own celebration events this month.