NCAI President Brian Cladoosby answers questions after his State of Indian Nations address. Native News Online photo by Levi Rickert
WASHINGTON – Speaking from an overflow crowd at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on last Thursday, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Brian Cladoosby, who is chairman of the Swinomish Tribe, delivered the organization’s annual “State of Indian Nations” address.
The crowd included tribal leaders, members of Congress, Obama administration officials and heads of national American Indian organizations. The crowd also included former U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Cheyenne), who represented Colorado for two terms.
President Cladoosby urged the federal government to modernize trust relations with tribal governments and to remove cumbersome barriers to economic development.
“Congress and the Administration need to find ways to help bring federal agencies out of the 19th Century and into the 21st Century. We need them to be partners for growth and not barriers to growth,” said Cladoosby.
NCAI is the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country.
President Cladoosby displays a wampum belt
During the major policy address NCAI and Cladoosby outlined a clear plan and top-level priorities for Congress and the Administration that could attract bipartisan support:
FUNDING THE TRUST RESPONSIBILTY
The organization released a 130 page report The FY 2016 Indian Country Budget Request; Promoting Self-Determination, Modernizing the Trust Relationship, outlining a plan for funding the federal government’s trust responsibility through the budget process.
NCAI called on congress to advance tribal tax reform to enable tribes to raise tax revenue free from overlapping state taxation, and to create incentives for business and jobs.
NCAI proposed the federal government accelerate work to partner with the private sector to expand broadband connectivity in Indian Country and ensure a comprehensive study of the digital divide facing tribal nations.
ACCESS TO CAPITAL
US Department of the Interior – Indian Affairs spokesperson, Nedra Darling, NCAI President Brian Cladoosby and Forrest Cox , Government Relations & Economic Development Specialist, Cherokee Nation Businesses
NCAI proposed extending access to capital by recognizing the equal status of tribal governments to access tax exempt bonds and ensuring tribal inclusion in the New Markets Tax Credit Program.
NCAI urged Congress to pass Indian energy legislation like that proposed by Chairman Barrasso that would provide tribes with greater control and flexibility to develop their traditional and renewable energy resources.
NCAI called on Congress and the Administration to ensure that tribal nations have a seat at the policymaking table by consulting with tribes on all policy issues such as the Keystone Pipeline, renewable energy, health care, and education.
NCAI called on Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this year with tribal provisions to encourage tribal-state partnerships, strengthen local control of education, and begin to help every school deliver a high-quality education.
NCAI proposed that Congress should enact legislation that supports Native language programs so education for our children is rooted in our history and culture
NCAI called on financial sponsors of the Washington DC football team to join “fair-minded Americans” by standing with NCAI, tribes, Native organizations, civil rights organizations, religious leaders, and others to change the mascot of the Washington DC football team;
NCAI applauded the President’s proposal to make the first two years of tribal and community college free. NCAI promised to work with Congress & Administration to make this investment in assuring K-through-14 education in America.
Photos by Levi Rickert, Native News Online