Remarks by the President After Roundtable with Alaska Native Leaders
Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center
4:22 P.M. AKDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I am thrilled to be in Alaska. And I look forward to spending the next few days with everyday Alaskans to tell me what’s going on in their lives and what’s going on in this remarkable state.
I want to thank our Governor, Governor Walker, Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott, as well as Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Secretary Sally Jewell of the Department of Interior for joining us.
But the main purpose of this meeting was to give me an opportunity to interact and listen to some Alaska Native tribal leaders. A number of them I've met with before during the Tribal Summits that we've had in Washington. But this gave me a chance to focus more intensely on specifically what’s happening in Alaska. And they don’t just represent a large portion of Alaska’s population; these are communities that have been around for 10,000 years or so. So it’s worth paying attention to them because they know a little bit from all that history.
Since I took office, I’ve been committed to sustaining a government-to-government relationship between the United States and our tribal nations. We host tribal leaders in Washington every year. I’ve visited Indian Country at the Standing Rock Reservation and the Choctaw Nation. This week, we're going to be visiting two more tribal communities here in Alaska -- in Dillingham and Kotzebue.
And in fact, by the end of my time in office, I’ll have visited more communities -- more tribal communities than any previous sitting President, which I feel pretty good about -- in case anybody is keeping track.
One of the things that we've been focused on is how can we work together and improve communication, consultation, collaboration and participation in dealing with the issues that face Native communities. And we've made progress so far in providing support for tribal youth, expanding access to health care, improving disaster assistance, making sure that we're addressing squarely the profound issues around violence against Native women.
We’ve also made a couple of news announcements today. Obviously the big one was returning the most magnificent peak in our nation to its original name -- Mount Denali -- something that the people of Alaska had been working on and petitioning consistently since 1970. And I'm glad that we were able to respond to that.
My administration also is taking new action to make sure that Alaska Natives have direct input into the management of Chinook salmon stocks, something that has been of great concern here.
But one of the biggest things I heard during this discussion was the need for us to work more intensively and more collaboratively with communities, particularly in rural areas, that are burdened by crippling energy costs, that are obviously continually concerned about hunting and fishing rights and their ability to sustain their way of life in the face of profound climate change that's taking place -- taking place, in fact, faster -- twice as fast here in Alaska as it is in the Lower 48.
And so, in addition to initiatives around renewable energy and how we can be more creative in helping local communities deal with high energy costs and bringing them down, housing construction that's more energy efficient that can save people money, we're also going to be paying a lot of attention to how we can work together and tap into the wisdom and knowledge of tribal communities in managing and conserving land in the face of what is a profound global challenge.
Many of the issues that were raised here -- everything from voting rights to land trusts -- are issues that my agencies will be following up with on an ongoing basis. And we've already had a lot of visits from various Cabinet Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries, working with the people around this table. That's going to continue for as long as I remain President. And hopefully we will have set a new pattern and a new set of relationships that will extend well beyond my own presidency, because when it comes to the First Americans, how we interact with these communities says a lot about who we are as a country. And I think the people of Alaska understand that as well as anybody.
So, again, I want to thank all the leadership here for everything that they’ve done in working with us. I want to thank you for all the great ideas that you offered. And I want to thank the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the Senator for their participation as well. They obviously feel very deeply about these issues in their home state as well.
All right. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you, pool.
4:28 P.M. AKDT