Blog Posts Related to the Native American Community

  • Collaborating with Tribes through the White House Rural Council

    On June 9th, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council. While rural communities face challenges, they also present economic potential. The Council will address these challenges, build on the Administration’s rural economic strategy, and improve the implementation of that strategy.

    The Council, chaired by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, was established to focus on policy initiatives for Rural Americans and will coordinate to increase the effectiveness of federal engagement with tribal governments. According to the 2010 U.S. Decennial Census, 42.6 percent of all Native Americans live in rural areas. In addition, some reservations face unemployment rates of up to 80 percent. The Council will work across federal agencies to address these challenges and promote economic prosperity and quality of life in Indian Country and across rural America. The Council will work to break down silos and find areas for better collaboration and improved flexibility in government programs and will work closely with state, local and tribal governments, non-profits, and the private sector to leverage federal support.

    Plans are already underway for the Council to address ways to expand access to capital in rural communities, including an examination of the unique challenges facing Indian Country in increasing the flow of credit to Indian reservations. Economic development and job creation in Indian Country—and in all other sectors of the U.S. economy—depend on access to capital. When credit-worthy business owners can easily borrow to finance business start-up and expansion, the economy thrives. One thing we hear from tribal leaders, however, is that borrowing money for business development in Indian Country is difficult. The reasons range from difficulties in using tribal land as collateral, to the small number of lending institutions serving Indian Country, to lenders’ perceptions that lending to tribal members or tribal governments is risky.

  • A Historic Step Toward True Trust Reform

    Ed. Note: just launched a new page dedicated to the Native American community, view it here.

    An historic court action on June 20 signaled the beginning of a new era in the U.S. Government’s relations with American Indian communities.

    By approving the $3.4 billion settlement of the Cobell v. Salazar lawsuit, U.S. Senior District Judge Thomas F. Hogan paved the way for payments to as many as a half a million American Indians to resolve their class-action litigation regarding the federal government’s management of their individual trust accounts and assets.

    A fund of $1.5 billion will be used to compensate class members for their claims regarding potential mismanagement of their trust funds and assets and historical accounting. The agreement also establishes a $1.9 billion fund for the voluntary buy-back and consolidation of fractionated land interests, which have been proliferating through succeeding generations. The program, to be administered by the Department of the Interior, provides individual American Indians an opportunity to obtain cash payments for small divided land interests and free up the “fractionated” land for the benefit of tribal communities.   The settlement also provides for a Indian Education Scholarship Fund of up to $60 million for the benefit of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

  • A New Webpage for the Native American Community

    The White House is pleased to announce the launch of “Winning the Future: President Obama and the Native American Community.”  This webpage is meant to serve as another tool to help Indian Country navigate the federal government and learn about how the President’s Agenda is helping to win the future for Native Americans.

    Since his first day in office, President Obama has worked to strengthen the government-to-government relationship between the United States and tribal governments in order to improve the quality of life for all Native Americans.  Working with tribal leaders through meaningful consultation, the Administration and Indian Country have made significant progress in several areas.  We made sure the Recovery Act included many job-creating investments for Indian Country.  Our health care reform permanently authorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, and the President signed into law the Tribal Law and Order Act, which will help fight crime in Indian Country.  Furthermore, the Administration finally settled the longstanding legal claims in the Cobell litigation and the lawsuit brought by Native American Farmers against the United States Department of Agriculture.  To mark the launch of this webpage, we are highlighting a guest blog post by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on the recent court approval of the historic settlement in the Cobell lawsuit, “A Historic Step Towards True Trust Reform.

    All of these accomplishments have provided more opportunity and security for Native Americans, but they are just part of our ongoing effort to create stronger tribal communities throughout Indian Country.  This new webpage is designed to be a centralized forum to share information about those ongoing efforts, while continuing to improve our government-to-government relationship.

  • Overcoming Life Struggles with Fatherhood in the Tribal Community

    Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

    I am from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community located in Arizona.

    I was born in Tucson, AZ where after just being born, my struggle in life began. When I was born 2 months early, my Grandmother Dorothy told me I was so small that I could fit into the palm of a hand and the doctor said they didn’t know if I was going to make it. I spent the next six months living in a plastic bubble.

    After I survived that first struggle, the next struggle came when my family moved off the reservation and moved into the city. Some of the friends I met there were not the best influences, which lead to getting into a life of crime and drugs at a very young age. I spent most of my time away from home because I hated to see the hurt in my own family so it was best for me to just stay away all day. As I grew up, I took that life back to the reservation and my negative influence on the community eventually lead to my extradition from the reservation. 

    It was then that I came across the Fatherhood program that got me to see and listen to myself. It helped me to actually understand the destruction I caused in our community. The Fatherhood program gave me tools of life that helped me build myself and become the individual that I am today. I overcame all the obstacles and I got a job within the tribal complex and actually kept it, and support my eight children. A nice home filled with happiness.

  • SAIGE 2011 Conference Brings Together Current and Future Group of Public Servants

    OPM Director John Berry with SAIGE Youth Track

    Director of the Office of Personnel Management John Berry meets with young leaders at the Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE) 2011 Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 14, 2011. (Photo by Jeff Barehand, SAIGE)

    I’m in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE) 2011 Conference.  One of my favorite parts of serving as Director of OPM is the opportunity to work with so many amazingly dedicated, talented Americans who have chosen to work as public servants.

    Many of our Federal public servants are American Indians and Alaska Natives, and I came to share information with them and seek their input.  I also got to meet some of the young people attending the conference and I hope they will become Federal – and SAIGE – leaders of tomorrow.

    OPM is engaged in meaningful consultation with American Indian and Alaska Native leaders about how to best add tribal employees to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.  This exciting new opportunity, created by the Affordable Care Act, will be a great new benefit for tribal workers and their families.

  • Let’s Move! in Indian Country Comes to the White House Kitchen Garden

    At tonight’s State Dinner for visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, guests will have a unique link to Indian Country and the health and well being of Native children.  They will be dining on vegetables that were harvested last Friday by twenty two American Indian children invited to the White House in conjunction with the launch of Let’s Move! in Indian Country (LMIC), the First Lady’s initiative to promote healthy lifestyles among Native American children.  LMIC is a comprehensive initiative dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation.  The four main goals of LMIC are to create a healthy start on life, develop healthy learning, increase physical activity, and improve access to affordable, healthy and traditional foods.

    To focus on healthy and traditional foods, the First Lady was joined last Friday by American Indian children and LMIC supporters, including St. Louis Rams quarterback and member of the Cherokee Nation Sam Bradford, to harvest the spring crop and plant a “three sisters” garden.  The “three sisters”– corn, beans and squash – are traditional Native American crops planted together to grow in a mutually beneficial manner: the corn provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles; the beans provide the soil with nitrogen that the other plants use; and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight and preventing weeds.

  • First Lady and American Indian Kids Plant White House Kitchen Garden

    Cross-posted from the Let's Move! Blog.

    Last Friday, just a week after the launch of Let’s Move! in Indian Country, First Lady Mrs. Obama and American Indian kids spent the afternoon in the White House kitchen garden planting the “three sisters” crops (corns, beans, and squash). The kids also helped Mrs. Obama harvest crops in the garden, including lettuces, rhubarb, chard, kohlrabi, sugar snap peas, turnips, broccoli and herbs – some of which will be used in Tuesday’s State Dinner in honor of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    First Lady three sisters

    First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a Garden Harvest Event with children and members of the American Indian community, in the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn of the White House, June 3, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

    This “three sisters” traditional Native American planting technique grows crops in a mutually beneficial manner: the corn provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles; the beans provide the soil with nitrogen that the other plants use; and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight and preventing weeds.

    “Today’s a big day for us in the garden because it’s the first time we’re going to use native seeds of corn, beans and squash in the way they’ve been planted for thousands of years,” Mrs. Obama said. “We’re all pretty excited to continue this tradition.  This is another example of a fun, easy way that we all can work together to be healthier.  And that’s what we’re trying to accomplish with Let’s Move!”

    Let’s Move! in Indian Country comes as a response to the current obesity trend within the American Indian community. American Indian or Alaska Native children between the ages of two and four have a higher prevalence of obesity (20.7% in 2009) than any other racial or ethnic group. Let’s Move! in Indian Country, in an effort to stem the tide of childhood obesity, brings together federal agencies, communities, nonprofits, corporate partners, schools and tribes to focus on four areas:

    • Early childhood development
    • Healthy learning communities
    • Physical activity
    • Increasing access to affordable, healthy foods

    Check out the video of Friday’s garden event here.

  • Defying the Odds: End the Rise of HIV/AIDS in Native American Communities

    HIV remains a highly stigmatized condition. It is a serious medical condition and people still die of AIDS.  Nonetheless, we have highly effective treatments for people living with HIV and better tools than ever before to prevent infection.   As uncomfortable as it may be for some people to talk about HIV and AIDS, discussing the basic facts about transmission, testing, and treatment are essential to stopping this epidemic in its tracks. That is why on Sunday, March 20th, we will commemorate the fifth annual National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to educate and encourage American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) to take action to stop the spread of this disease.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that American Indians and Alaska Natives represent less than 1 percent of those living with HIV. However, these communities continue to be impacted by HIV. CDC surveillance data show that from 2006 through 2009, the estimated annual rate of HIV diagnosis increased among AI/AN people.  In 2009, the estimated rate of HIV diagnosis was 9.8 per 100,000, higher than the rate for white and Asian Americans.  Additionally, the CDC estimates that approximately 26% of AI/AN people living with HIV are unaware of their infection. Once diagnosed with AIDS, AI/AN people are less likely to survive compared to HIV-positive individuals in other communities.