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WASHINGTON — National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Fawn Sharp (Quinault Indian Nation) delivered her State of the Indian Nations address in front of a standing-room-only crowd in the Rasmuson Theater at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. and streamed to hundreds of others around Indian Country.

In the last year of her second term as president of NCAI, Tuesday’s address was the last for Sharp. Her delivery was fiery, filled with applause during the speech that lasted about 40 minutes, and ended with a standing ovation.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the first time since 2020 that the annual address was given live. At one point, Sharp asked the audience to give a moment of silence to recognize the thousands who passed away from the coronavirus during the pandemic. 

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Sharp provided an overview of Indian Country successes during the past year, such as the passing of advance appropriations for the Indian Health Service, the expansion of provisions with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and over $1 billion to increase broadband throughout Indian Country. 

She said the accomplishments during the Biden administration have been incredible for Indian Country. While not always easy to obtain, much was accomplished because Indian Country leaders showed up and asked to be included in legislation.

 A theme emerged during her address: “Show up.” 

“This past year, we also came together to achieve parity with state and local governments on critical pieces of funding,” Sharp said. “I’m talking about more than $1 billion awarded in grants to support the expansion of high-speed internet, $580 million to provide long-awaited water resources and nearly $470 million for tribal nations living on the frontlines of climate change.  

We did this. We have incredible momentum. And now it is up to us as tribal leaders to just show up and demand more — more for our elders, more for our youth and more for our future.  

We must show up and make sure that the farm bill includes provisions to help repatriate our lands, to build our economies, to protect our foods, and to protect our medicines. 

We must show up for the return of our lands. Our land is sacred. It is essential for the preservation of our traditions and for the health of our communities.”

Sharp cited the influence of Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, as the first cabinet member in a secretarial role within a presidential cabinet, has had across the federal government. 

In her conclusion, Sharp said:

“Today, the state of Indian nations is strong because our ancestors worked hard to make it so. If we continue to work together, we can make their legacy our tribal nations everlasting and eternal. This is the true strength and power of the National Congress of American Indians, the collective strength of our tribal nations, tribal citizens, our allies, all of us working together, standing united as well. When any tribe, any single person in Indian Country faces a challenge, we need all of Indian Country to just show up.” 

After her speech, Sharp told Native News Online asked her how she came up with the “show up” theme. She said late last year, as she was coming off a fast, the Creator told her that all she has to do is, “show up.”  

At the conclusion of Sharp’s address, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) gave the congressional response. 

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About The Author
Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].