President Obama hosts 7th Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference

Published on Nov 05, 2015

November 5, 2015 


 Washington, DC – President Barack Obama, tribal leaders from across the country, and key federal officials gathered today for the 7th Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference (WHTNC) to discuss how they can continue to work together to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship between tribal nations and the US government and cement a legacy that empowers Indian Country’s future. 

Held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, the WHTNC kicked off with big news from athletic shoe and apparel maker Adidas, who announced an initiative to help high schools nationwide drop their Native American-themed mascots, nicknames, imagery or symbolism by providing logo and uniform redesign services and financial support to ensure that the cost of changing mascots is not prohibitive. 

Also unveiled was MTV’s powerful new video on Generation Indigenous, which featured First Lady Michelle Obama declaring to Native youth, “As you move forward, remember you are never alone.”

The annual convening continued with rousing addresses by an impressive slate of tribal leaders and federal officials, including: 

·         Chairwoman Rosemary Morillo, Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

·         Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama

·         Secretary Sally Jewell, Department of the Interior

·         Chairman Aaron Payment, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

·         Rory Taylor, Center for Native American Youth 2015 Champion for Change, and citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma

·         Ambassador Keith Harper, U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council, and citizen of the Cherokee Nation

·         Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Secretary, Department of State

Conference participants attended breakout sessions to engage in meaningful dialogues with federal officials on critical topics ranging from health care to housing to climate change. From these sessions and throughout the day came announcements of several new key federal developments and initiatives for Indian Country, such as: 

·         The Department of the Interior finalized and released new Right of Way Regulations, which will give Native landowners greater control over the use and development of tribal lands.

·         The Department of Justice announced the first 10 tribes to participate in the initial phase of the Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information (TAP).

·         The Department of the Interior’s launch of Native One Stop, a website where tribal citizens can locate important federal resources they may be eligible to receive.

·         The Department of Education released its agency consultation policy and also highlighted the release of the School Environment Listening Sessions Final Report.

·         The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced changes to the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative designed to make tribes more competitive for this funding stream for neighborhood transformation, which will be integrated into a NOFA that will be released in the next 30 days.

·         The appointment of Karen Diver (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa) to serve as Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs, White House Domestic Policy Council.

President Obama wrapped up the landmark event with brief opening remarks. “When I ran for office, I pledged to build a true nation-to-nation relationship with you,” he said to the tribal leaders in attendance. “What has started out as a campaign promise has now become a tradition.” He went on to share that "the success of our Native American communities is tied up with the success of America as a whole." 

Obama then joined a roundtable discussion moderated by Jude Schimmel (Umatilla), a standout basketball player at the University of Louisville. The roundtable covered a number of topics important to Native youth, including the need for quality, culturally appropriate education; suicide prevention; food sovereignty; and the movement to eliminate racist sports mascots in schools. Querying President Obama were four Native youth: Blossom Johnson (Navajo Nation), age 23; Tatiana Ticknor (Yup’ik/Tlingit/Dena’ina), age 16; Brayden White (St. Regis Mohawk Tribe), age 21; and Philip Douglas (Seminole Nation of Oklahoma), age 16. In closing the Conference, Obama said of Native youth, “I want to be a partner with you to make sure that every possible door is opened to them.” 

For more information, please see the Fact Sheet for the 7th Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference and also NCAI’s Tribal Leader Briefing Book. 

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 About The National Congress of American Indians:

Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information visit

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