WASHINGTON – With thunderous applause, President Barack Obama gave his fifth in as many years speech in front of tribal leaders from the 566 federally recognized tribes today in the Sidney Yates Auditorium in the Department of Interior’s Stewart Lee Udall Building this afternoon in the nation’s capitol.
The tribal leaders were gathered at the White House Tribal Nations Conference, which the Obama administration began the year he took office.
During his speech, President Obama said he will make next year he will make his first trip to Indian country as President.
“The White House Tribal Nations Conference is a chance to see the progress made in partnership with Indian country in the last year, and to set forth the issues that still need attention,” said Tribal Chairwoman Karen Diver of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, based in Cloquet, Minnesota. Chairwoman Diver had the honor of introducing President Obama.
“It is always encouraging to see the high number of tribal leaders that attend the White House Tribal Nations Conference each year. This is an opportunity to hear directly from the President’s cabinet, as well as other members of his administration speak to his continued commitment to, not only to reach out to Indian country, but to listen as well,” commented former Tribal Chairman Derek Bailey of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians, based in Peshawbetown, Michigan.
“What is imperative though for tribal leaders is that they now act upon the words and responses that were obtained from the executive level staff of the Obama administration,” Bailey continued.
Several members of Congress attended the Tribal Nations Conference. U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, D – North Dakota, a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs attended and made the following comment:
“It was an honor to represent North Dakotans today at the White House Tribal Nations Conference. This conference is crucial to helping shed a bright light on the challenges facing Native American families, which too often get swept under the rug. It has also served as another important way for the U.S. government and Tribal nations to collaborate on ways to improve conditions in Indian Country. Throughout the week, I’m also working closely with North Dakota tribal leaders, to discuss my Commission on Native Children bill, as well as many other pressing issues affecting Indian country like housing, energy, and economic development.”
In closing President Obama honored veterans: “In this Veterans Week … Native Americans who have served their country with honor and courage.” He specifically mentioned Navajo “code talkers” from World War II and Lori Piestewa, a Hopi soldier who was killed in Iraq, “the first known native American woman to give her life in the service of her country.”
Fond du Lac Band Chair Karen Diver gets Presidential hug