Published on Mar 04, 2010
WASHINGTON—March 5, 2010—The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the oldest and largest Indian organization in the country, ended its Executive Council Winter Session with a focus on the President’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget, strategies for more effectively engaging the Administration, and legislative proposals that will affect Native people and communities in the coming months.
“We are pleased to have had so many critical partners in the Administration and Congress participate in our conference and dialogue about issues that are important to us,” said NCAI President Jefferson Keel. “I encourage tribal leaders to take these messages home to their communities.”
Before the first General Assembly, pre-meetings allowed for the exchange of information and sharing of tribal input on timely issues, including: federal recognition; violence against Native women; the fundamentals of health care reform and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act; land to trust; eagle feather use, acquisition, possession, and enforcement; and development of a national strategy for tribal natural resources.
General Assembly had a packed agenda, with messages from eight Cabinet Secretaries and Administrators and another seven speakers in positions in the Administration which are important to Indian Country. Attendees also heard from nine members of Congress regarding pending and future legislation impacting our tribal communities.
The fourth and final General Assembly ended with messages from the White House. Valerie Jarrett, the senior advisor and assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs, talked about funding for Indian programs, White House staff working for Indian Country, President Obama’s Memorandum on Tribal Consultation, and the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative, which was created to address childhood obesity. Jarrett closed saying, “I think we have made some great strides already, but there’s much more to do. I can assure you that the President is working overtime, reaching out, and doing his part to make a difference. His commitment to partner with you, to take on the issues that matter most to you—this commitment remains firm—and we are resolved to bring about positive change that will move our country—and Indian Country—forward.” Kim Teehee, the senior policy advisor for Native American Affairs, talked about the “open door” policy for tribal leaders at the White House and the listening sessions that the White House will continue to hold in D.C. and throughout Indian Country.
On Tuesday, a press conference with NCAI President Keel; National American Indian Housing Council Executive Director, Mellor Willie; and National Indian Health Board Secretary, Cynthia Manuel was held to address the President’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget proposal. “Tribes need access to the same resources that other governments have to promote the well-being of Indian people,” said NCAI President Jefferson Keel. “In every area of the federal budget, Indian programs receive less per capita than for the rest of the nation. The budget that the President has proposed for Fiscal Year 2011 will build on some of the investments made in last year’s budget for public safety, contract support costs, and health care.”
Conference attendees also got to participate in some evening activities. Monday evening, NCAI held its 12th Annual Leadership Awards Dinner. This year awards were presented to: U.S. Congressman Xavier Becerra; Rear Admiral Eric B. Broderick; Elouise Cobell; Professors Joseph P. Kalt and Stephen Cornell; and Marie Howard. On Tuesday evening, attendees spent an evening at the National Museum of American Indian for the Capitol Hill Legislative Reception, where all of the exhibits were open and participants had time to socialize with staff from the Congress and Administration.
After the conference adjourned, there were additional meetings to provide an opportunity for in-depth dialogue on critical issues, including: a tribal leader caucus to prepare for the HHS Budget Consultation; a National Criminal Justice Association and NCAI tribal-state collaboration meeting; the NCAI Tribal Homeland Security/Emergency Management Workgroup meeting; and an open discussion on the Department of Justice consultation plan.
To view copies of speeches, resolutions, pictures, and documents distributed during the session, please visit NCAI’s website at www.ncai.org.
NCAI will convene again in Rapid City, South Dakota on June 20-23, 2010 for its Mid-Year Session.