NCAI President Outlines Course for Securing the Future of Tribal Nations and America

Published on Feb 14, 2013

In State of Indian Nations Address Jefferson Keel calls for greater partnership in federal trust relationship

NCAI releases "Securing our Futures" report with a focus on the contributions of tribal nations to the American economy

Washington, DC - In a national speech addressing the current state of tribal nations, Jefferson Keel President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), outlined in the State of Indian Nations Address, a course for securing tribal communities, nations, and the future prosperity of both tribes and America.

In remarks delivered to members of Congress, tribal leaders and citizens, and government officials broadcast nationally via a live web cast and radio, Keel covered a range of critical topics central to both tribal nations and federal, state and local government.  In his remarks Keel called for increased efforts to work together to address violence against women, the federal budget sequestration, immigration, land and energy issues, and economic development (read  full text of Keel's speech).  The Congressional Response was delivered by Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, who was recently appointed the new Chairwoman for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and represents 29 tribes and almost 165,000 Native people. 

The State of Indian Nations comes just two days after President Obama delivered the State of the Union and two days after the Senate overwhelmingly passed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with key tribal provisions to protect Native women. In the major address Keel specifically called on the House to pass a comprehensive bill and send the legislation to the President's desk immediately. 

"Congress must allow tribes, like all governments, to protect their own people and surrounding communities, from brutality.  So if we believe that a Native woman's life is worth the same as every other woman's, if we believe that justice should not stop at the border of a reservation, if we believe that tribes are truly sovereign, then it's time for the House of Representatives to step up, put partisan politics aside, and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act with expanded protections for all victims of violence," said Keel in the address. (video of VAWA segment of speech)

Keel also announced the release of NCAI's new report "Securing Our Futures" which highlights ways in which tribe are exercising and strengthening their sovereignty today (download the report). 

"Today, NCAI is releasing a report called Securing Our Futures. It shows areas where tribes are exercising their sovereignty right now, diversifying their revenue base, and bringing economic success to their nations and surrounding communities. The path to securing our future-from education to food security, climate change to workforce development-is illuminated by the proven success of tribal nations. While the circumstances of each tribal nation are unique, the promising practices contained in the report offer a way forward to secure tribal economies and sustain prosperity for future generations."

Senator Maria Cantwell (WA), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs delivered the Congressional Response (watch the response).

Keel concluded the speech by highlighting the foundation for the trust relationship between tribal nations and the federal government, specifically referring to the constitutional place of tribal nations as members of the American family of governments.

"These are the same principles that formed our treaties, and why our Constitution acknowledges tribes as equal, sovereign governments.  Today, you can see that sovereignty in action in tribal courts, in the classrooms of tribal colleges, and in tribal businesses all over the world.

This is the task at hand, to move together toward a more perfect union. To strengthen our trust relationship with the United States. From Washington to Kennedy, Reagan to Obama, tribal nations have worked with the United States to uphold this promise.

That trust, ultimately, is the principle that must guide us-all of us-as we go forward and do right by all of our children and grandchildren.

And when we do, we'll always be able to say, that the State of Indian Nations is strong, and the future prosperity of America is secure," Keel said in concluding the State of Indian Nations Address.

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