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!

Tex Hall's Farewell
Tex G. Hall gave his last address as president of NCAI on Monday, expressing sadness that he is leaving the position but hinting he may run for office in his home state of North Dakota. "These past four years have been the most thrilling of my life and it has been a privilege and honor to serve them here at NCAI," he told the delegates during the morning session.

Hall, who also serves as chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, went over some of NCAI's recent accomplishments. He cited the creation of the Tribal Supreme Court project, the Native Vote initiative, the trust reform task force and the State of Indian Nations address.

As for his next step, Hall said he was considering a future in state politics. "Lately, a lot of folks have been asking me if I will take on the biggest challenge of my life and run for statewide office back in North Dakota in 2008. I think that today, I am saying once again, why not?" he said.
Text of Speech (Indianz.Com 10/31) | Tex Hall says goodbye (The Native American Times 10/31)

NCAI Update
Jackie Johnson (Tlingit), the executive director of NCAI, gave an update on some of the issues tribes will be facing in the coming months. She said NCAI is pushing for reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the Violence Against Women Act, the Voting Rights Act and the Telecommunications Act. She warned tribes to get in their concerns on appropriations and other legislative issues as soon as possible in 2006 due to the upcoming election. "We know we have a small window of opportunity" next year, she said.

Gov. Brad Henry
Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry (D) hailed NCAI's return to Oklahoma, home to more than 30 tribes. He invited attendees to the blessing of the American Indian Cultural Center in Oklahoma City. "It will be the largest museum and cultural center of its kind in the world," he said of the $143 million facility that will be completed in late 2008.

Henry said tribes have taken an active role in the state's war against methamphetamine. He said the drug is "literally tearing at the fabric of our society" but that progress is being made in shutting down meth labs.
Preparations made for ceremony (The Oklahoman 11/1) [pwpwd]

NCAI Embassy
NCAI has raised more than $220,000 to create a Tribal Embassy in the nation's capital, Treasurer Ron Allen, the chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, reported during the morning session. "The fight for our sovereignty is fought in Washington, D.C.," he said as he explained the need for a building to house NCAI and other tribal organizations. He said former Bureau of Indian Affairs head Dave Anderson, the founder of the Famous Dave's barbecue restaurants, will donate an additional $50,000 by the end of the year to the campaign. The first round of money will be used to make a down payment for a building. The goal is to raise a total of $12 million

Congressman Tom Cole
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), a member of the Chickasaw Nation, addressed delegates during the morning session, expressing strong support for tribal sovereignty and Indian gaming. "We should never, ever qualify the existence of tribal sovereignty. ... It's non-negotiable," the only Native American in Congress said.

Unlike some of his colleagues in the House and Senate, Cole doesn't support efforts to reopen the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. "That's a mistake," he said. "It ought to be allowed to stay in place."

Later, during a noon press conference with outgoing NCAI President Tex Hall, Cole said he opposed the Bush administration's proposal to impose new limits on the $18 billion tribal casino industry. "My advice to the administration is: 'Don't go there," he said. The legislation would bar tribes from operating certain electronic gaming machines without state approval.

Cole, whose tribe has the largest gaming empire in Oklahoma, further suggested that the legislation is coming from "bureaucrats" at the Department of Justice -- not the White House. "They are not spending a lot of time a 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. thinking about this today," he asserted.
Indian Republican: INDNs List is a positive step (The Native American Times 10/31) | Cole urges tribal leaders to stay politically active (The Oklahoman 11/1) [pwpwd]

No Indian Child Left Behind
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who was confirmed to her position in January 2005, hailed the results of the recent Nation's Report Card, which showed that American Indian and Alaska Native students have made significant gains in math scores and modest gains in reading scores. "These results are big news," Spelling said during her first NCAI appearance.

Spellings said the No Child Left Behind Act needs to be extended to high schools in order to reduce disparities in achievement levels. Only 12 percent of Native Americans have a high school diploma compared to a third of all Americans. "That is simply unacceptable," she said.

A number of tribal leaders and educators, however, said the law doesn't take into account Indian languages and culture. But Spellings had trouble responding to their concerns because the sound system in the convention center made it difficult to hear. The problem was apparently fixed later in the day.
Education bill subject of debate (AP 11/1)

Indian Self-Determination: 30 Years Later
The theme of this year's conference, "Celebrating 30 Years of the Indian Self-Determination Act," was discussed during a panel in the afternoon session. Kevin Gover, a professor at Arizona State University and a former head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said tribes have been demanding the right to determine their own destinies for decades. He cited the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act as an example of tribal political victory.
Indian sovereignty is strongly defended (The Native American Times 10/31)

Hurricane Relief Update
NCAI has raised $140,000 to benefit the tribes, including the state-recognized ones, affected by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. At the conference yesterday, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians from California donated $100,000 and the Southern Ute Tribe of Colorado gave $25,000. "The money goes directly to the tribes," said Treasurer Ron Allen.

Overall, tribes have given nearly $6 million to the Red Cross and other organizations to aid in hurricane relief, said Robert Holden of NCAI. "What you see in the media is just one little piece," NCAI Vice President Joe Garcia said of the tragedy suffered on the Gulf Coast. "It's 100 times worse than that" on the ground, he said.

Jim Cason, the acting head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the associate deputy secretary at the Interior Department, is due to present an update on trust reform this morning. In the afternoon, a panel will discuss recent developments in trust reform. Other panel topics include Indian mascots, violence against women, methamphetamine and the media.

Also today, the Department of Justice and the National Indian Gaming Commission will be presenting their controversial proposal to amend the Johnson Act. NCAI President Tex Hall predicted a lot of "mad tribal leaders" will confront government officials about attempts to limit the use of electronic gaming machines.

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

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