The Native Voice: Tribes look for substance in DC
"It has been confirmed that over 400 of the 564 invited tribes will be in attendance tomorrow at President Obama's White House Tribal Nations Conference at the Department of Interior.

As a sweeping statement of historical significance, this meeting will be the largest gathering of federally recognized tribes in the history of the United States. President Obama will have pulled off what no tribal organization or past administration has yet been able to do.

While there is a lot of excitement in the air here in Washington, DC, many are withholding their expectations and taking a hopeful yet tempered "wait and see" attitude. Because while Obama's star power and message of hope has drawn the tribal leaders in to this unprecedented summit, what tribes are looking for is substantive progress for the myriad of concerns facing their people today, as well as resolution of past injustices and fixing the centuries-long bureaucratic mess.

The question becomes, how can the current administration quantitatively and qualitatively address everything on the table? It is a daunting piece of work. After so many years of hoping for the best and expecting very little, some tribal leaders are understandably cautious, but "cautiously optimistic" is the tone. What tribal leaders want to hear is a commitment to action on federal Indian policy that translates into results.

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar acknowledged, "There are so many difficult and monumental issues that face Indian nations throughout our Country, and, frankly, the last administration did not pay any attention to these issues." He said, "President Obama, as a agent of change, is opening up a new chapter of relationships with Indian Country."

Obama will deliver opening and closing remarks at the Tribal Conference, and will engage in an interactive discussion with tribal leaders, who will then have the opportunity to conference with representatives from the highest levels of the Obama administration, including members of the president's cabinet. A variety of issues will be addressed, including treaty obligations and tribal sovereignty, economic development and natural resources, public safety, housing, education and health and labor."

Get the Story:
Tribes look back to move forward: Obama's monumental challenge in Indian Country (The Native Voice / 11/4)

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