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Live from NCAI annual convention in Tulsa

Indianz.Com is in Tulsa, Oklahoma, all week for the 62nd annual National Congress of American Indian convention. Join us daily for updates on all the happenings and events!

Indian Health Service
Dr. Charles Grim, a member of the Cherokee Nation and the director of the Indian Health Service, said his agency is promoting three major initiatives: behavioral health, health promotion/disease prevention and chronic disease management He said behavioral health is probably the most important because it is linked to other health issues.

"We're starting to realize more and more that the behavioral health, the mental health, issues are becoming important," Grim told NCAI, citing high rates of suicide among Indian youth as one example.

Grim also announced statistics that showed Native Americans face major weight issues. According to a recent survey, 40 percent of IHS users are overweight or obese "and that leads to other disease problems," he said.

Another major problem is an issue that "often doesn't get talked about," Grim said. Statistics show that 25 percent of Native Americans suffer from disabilities. "That's a huge percentage," he said.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) was repeatedly greeted with applause during his morning speech at NCAI. He encouraged Native Americans to be politically active and said the Democratic Party is the way to go. "An Indian voting Republican is like the chicken voting for the Colonel," he said, referring to Colonel Sanders, the mascot for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Schweitzer said he has made the first Montanans a priority from day one. "There are more Indian people [in my administration] than all the governors combined in the history of Montana," he said. He challenged other states to ensure tribal nations have a seat at the table. "We are partners," he said of his relationship with the tribes.

Schweitzer gave an unexpected endorsement to Jonathan Windy Boy, a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe and Montana state legislator who is running for NCAI vice president.
Schweitzer tells Indians to seize day (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 11/3) | Montana governor addresses NCAI (The Native American Times 11/3)

Red Lake Nation
Floyd Jourdain Jr., the chairman of the Red Lake Ojibwe Nation of Minnesota, thanked federal agencies and Indian Country for reaching out to his tribe after the March 21, 2005, tragedy on the reservation that claimed the lives of 10 people, including several teens. "It was so good to see that support," he said of the help provided by the Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribes.

Jourdain said the real challenge now lies in ensuring that same type of support continues on the reservation, especially for the youth. He showed a video of the recent run that publicized the national Native Youth Crisis Hotline, 1-877-209-1266.
Red Lake Chairman: Listen to our youth before it is too late (The Native American Times 11/3)

NCAI Election
Today is the big day. Delegates will vote for a new NCAI President, first Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Nominations and nominating speeches were given on Wednesday and the candidates were busy holding receptions and campaigns well into the night.

For President:
Harold Frazier is the chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota. He wants NCAI to focus on health, poverty and jobs. He says Indian Country is more than gaming and trust reform. He was nominated by Jonathan Windy Boy, a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe.
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
Photo Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

Joe Garcia is the governor of San Juan Pueblo of New Mexico. He is currently serving his second term as NCAI vice president, a position he won two years ago. He plans to make preservation of culture a priority. He was nominated by Larry Blythe, vice chief of Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Photo Indianz.Com.

Jim Gray is the chief of the Osage Nation of Oklahoma and a prominent leader on trust reform issues. He is the former longtime publisher and owner of The Oklahoma Indian Times / The Native American Times. He wants to put the national spotlight on Indian issues. He was nominated by Wallace Coffey, the chairman of the Comanche Nation.
Campaign Site | Osage Nation
Photo Indianz.Com.
S. Dakotan may head nation's top Indian group (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 11/3)

For Vice President:
Jefferson Keel, lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and Eastern Oklahoma area vice president for NCAI. He was nominated by Manuel Heart, the chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe of Colorado.

Jonathan Windy Boy, a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe and Montana state legislator. He was nominated by Mark Allen, the chairman of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe of South Dakota. "I feel he is going to be a strong leader," Allen said.

NCAI Secretary:
Laurie Thom, the chairwoman of the Walker River Paiute Tribe of Nevada, was nominated by John Berrey, the chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma. He called Thom "a sister to Indian Country" and said NCAI needs women leaders.

Juana Majel, a member of the Pauma-Yuima Band of Luiseo Indians, was nominated by Kevin Shendo, the lieutenant governor of Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, "She may talk softly but she carries a big stick," Shendo said.

NCAI Treasurer:
W. Ron Allen, the chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe of Washington, was nominated by Melanie Benjamin, the chief executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota. "In life there are showhorses and there are workhorses," she said. "Ron is definitely a workhorse."

J.C. Crawford, the chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Tribe of South Dakota, was nominated by outgoing NCAI President Tex Hall. "As we say in the Great Plains, he is the real deal," Hall said of Crawford.

Relevant Links:
National Congress of American Indians -
Tulsa Planning Committee -

Related Stories:
Live from NCAI: Update from Opening Day (11/1)
NCAI kicks off annual convention in Tulsa (11/1)
NCAI ready to descend on Tulsa for annual meet (10/27)