U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke Gives His First Address to a Gathering of Tribal Nations at the NCAI 2017 Mid Year Conference

Published on Jun 14, 2017

UNCASVILLE, CT | Yesterday, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke gave his first address to a national gathering of tribal nations during the opening plenary session at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) 2017 Mid Year Conference & Marketplace (Mid Year).

“Sovereignty has to mean something, it has to be more than a name, it has to be that tribes decide for themselves what is right,” said Secretary Zinke. “Not only should the department meet our treaty obligations but exceed our treaty obligations. I’m honored to be your champion.”

Secretary Zinke spoke about his commitment to tribal sovereignty, equal partnership between tribes and DOI based on respect, and the need to address improvements within DOI including the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).

“My pledge is to work with you as an equal partner and be your advocate to fix a system that is broken,” said Zinke. “We live in a great nation, and we should not accept failure as a standard. We should not accept failure as normal. It is my pledge to be your advocate."

“Better to put dollars on the front line, not in middle management or bureaucracy,” said Zinke. “As a former commander, it’s about the front line. I will absolutely work with you, that is the path we need to take.”

The Secretary kept his prepared remarks brief and engaged in a dialogue with tribal leaders from across the nation.

Following his remarks, Secretary Zinke was honored in a blanket ceremony by two former NCAI Presidents Joe Garcia, Councilman, Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo and Jefferson Keel, Lt. Governor, Chickasaw Nation, both of whom are veterans joined by the Mohegan Tribe Chairman Kevin Brown “Red Eagle”. Zinke, who served for 23 years as a U.S. Navy SEAL, was draped in the blanket honoring his service in the United States Armed Forces while an honor song was performed by Leander McDonald, NCAI Area Vice President and President of the United Tribes Technical College.

Directly following his discussion with tribal leaders, the Secretary met with the NCAI Youth Commission for discussions on issues affecting Native youth. For photos visit the NCAI Flickr page https://www.flickr.com/photos/ncai/.

For additional information, please or contact NCAI Communications Associate Erin Weldon at ncaipress@ncai.org.


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 www.ncai.org.
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