BIA summit focuses on Indian Country economies
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Looking like proud parents, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton and Indian affairs aide Neal McCaleb on Monday took a sneak peak at the economic development summit they are hosting this week in Arizona.

The goal of the National Summit on Emerging Tribal Economies is to create 100,000 new jobs in Indian Country by 2008. The Bush officials said the conference, the first of its kind, will help tribes and Indian entrepreneurs connect with public and private entities.

"Networking is an important part," Norton said on the conference floor of the Phoenix Civic Center where more than 130 federal agencies, corporations and Indian businesses will share information.

But they also said tribes have a lot to learn from one another. Self-determination is the cornerstone of the summit, and has the Bush administration's full support, said Norton.

"Indian Country has the ability to create terrific entrepreneurial activities," she said, "and we want to enhance that."

"This is an Indian show," noted McCaleb, "of Indians, by Indians and for Indians."

Economic conditions in Indian Country are the worst in the nation. Although gains over the past decade were made, poverty and income are low while unemployment hovers at 70 percent on some reservations.

The summit hopes to change that in a number of ways. A wide variety of industries, from information technology to farming to tourism to energy development, are being showcased to highlight the diverse opportunities available to Indian Country.

Tribal leaders are taking a direct role throughout the three-day event, hosting and sitting on panels to discuss how they have created what McCaleb calls an "economic fabric." Corporate and financial executives will also offer their advice.

Today's agenda includes a keynote by Norton. Two White House officials will also provide remarks.

McCaleb will lead off day two, which focuses on how tribes can partner with federal agencies and corporations. Day three includes a keynote by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell.

Relevant Links:
National Summit on Emerging Tribal Economies -

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