President Jefferson Keel of the National Congress of American Indians addresses the organization's executive council winter session in Washington, D.C., on February 13, 2019. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

President of National Congress of American Indians issues apology

The following statement was issued by President Jefferson Keel of the National Congress of American Indians on February 15 2019, in connection with the White House listening session that took place in Washington, D.C., this week.

I agree with my fellow tribal leaders that nation-to-nation consultation and engagement is the cornerstone of the treaty and trust relationship. NCAI would never suggest otherwise or attempt to interfere with direct nation-to-nation communications.

NCAI provided a room for White House staff to hold their listening session with tribal leaders after the NCAI Executive Council Winter Session because we believed it would be a first step in educating the White House about the federal-tribal relationship. We have consistently urged the current Administration and its predecessors to engage directly with sovereign tribal nations at the highest levels, including through meetings with the Cabinet members and the President.

We have also called for the White House to establish a White House Council on Native Nations (DEN-18-027). We will continue to do so.

I don’t want any tribal leader to feel like coming to Washington DC is a waste of their time. Representing our citizens with the federal government and other tribal nations is one of our most important responsibilities as leaders.

I have apologized directly to President Bear Runner for my choice of words. I look forward to traveling to the Great Plains to meet with tribal leaders to discuss their concerns and how we can work together to address the grave challenges Indian Country is facing.

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