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President Obama meeting with tribal leaders this week

President Barack Obama is hosting a first-ever Nation-to-Nation conference

Written by CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE, Native Times Correspondent
Sunday, 01 November 2009 16:59

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. ­ Continuing his outreach to Native Americans, President Barack Obama is hosting a first-ever Nation-to-Nation conference with hundreds of Indian tribal leaders Nov. 5 in Washington, D.C.

Leaders of all 564 federally recognized tribes are invited to the White House Tribal Nations Conference and will be given an opportunity to speak with the president and other top administration officials, according to a White House news release.

Each federally recognized tribe was invited to send one representative to the conference, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The President will deliver opening and closing remarks and participate in an interactive discussion with tribal leaders. Other interactive discussions in the areas of economic development and natural resources; public safety and housing; and education, health and labor will be led by representatives from the highest levels of the Administration. Expected Administration officials include: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, HUD Deputy Secretary Ronald Sims, DHS Deputy Secretary Jane Lute, Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, and Indian Health Service Director Dr. Yvette Robideaux.

The White House Tribal Nations Conference will be streamed live at www.whitehouse.gov/live.

Although it’s being called the White House Tribal Nations Conference, it won’t be held in the White House because of the size of the group the president intends to host. With up to 564 expected attendees, the conference will take place at the nearby Sidney R. Yates Auditorium at the Department of the Interior.

“From what I understand, 90 percent of our tribal leaders are going. We’re looking forward to this historical event,” Darrell Flyingman, Governor of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, said.

Flyingman will be attending along with many more Oklahoma tribal leaders who are taking the opportunity to visit with the president about pressing issues affecting their tribes.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief A.D. Ellis said the meeting is long overdue.

“I’m glad he’s following through on the promise he made when he was campaigning,” Ellis said. “This meeting with tribal leaders has been a long time coming.”

Ellis said if he’s able to bring up any issues, he plans to ask Obama about the Indian health care system and education.

Flyingman said he wants to discuss land-into-trust issues and gaming.

“Right now, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe is able to provide millions of dollars to tribal services from gaming revenue. Now we have the opportunity to expand, but first we have to get land put into trust to be able to do that,” he said.

He also has concerns about the state getting involved with gaming the way it has with tribal smoke shops and tobacco compacts.

“I see them trying to get a hold on gaming through taxes and I see that destroying our gaming initiatives,” Flyingman said.

The president said he looks forward to hearing directly from Indian Country leaders about what he and his administration can do to meet their needs and improve their lives and the lives of their peoples.

“This conference will serve as part of the ongoing and important consultation process that I value, and further strengthen the Nation-to-Nation relationship,” Obama said.

Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby agrees the conference will be a good way to improve the federal government’s relationship with tribes.

“This conference should do a great deal to enhance communication and relationships between tribes and the federal government, which will be in the best interest of everyone concerned,” Anoatubby said. “President Obama should be commended for recognizing the importance of tribal government and the people whom they represent.”

The conference is also one way Obama is making good on his promises to Indian Country he made while ampaigning.

“Few have been ignored by Washington for as long as Native Americans, the first Americans,” Obama said during a campaign visit to the Crow Tribe in Montana.

During that visit, Obama also said he would appoint a Native American adviser to his senior White House staff and work on providing better health care and education to reservations across the country.

He began making good on those promises this year. In June, he appointed Kimberly Teehee, a Cherokee Nation citizen, as his senior policy advisor for Native American Affairs. Next, Yvette Roubideaux, a Rosebud Sioux, was sworn in as director of Indian Health Service on June 29. A director has not yet been named for the Bureau of Indian Education.

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