The President of the National Congress of American Indians, Chickasaw Nation Lt. Gov. Jefferson Keel, delivered the State of Indian Nations address at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.
Though he mentioned some of the persistent problems that continue to plague Indian country — chronic unemployment and high rates of diseases – he did not dwell on them.
“Our people are suffering, but our spirit is not broken. We have endured centuries of neglect and abuse. Yet we remain steadfast in our journey toward self-reliance.”
He emphasized that tribal sovereignty “is the self-determined path to economic growth and to addressing chronic unemployment, education, crime and so many of the problems our citizens face in their daily lives.”
Keel laid out seven “transformative actions” for the Obama Administration “to create jobs and bring change to tribal nation communities.”
* Reduce the land transaction backlog: The administration should make it a top priority to remove obstacles and delays in land-to-trust acquisitions
* Reform crime prevention on Indian reservations: While Justice Department reforms are underway, the Interior Department needs to enhance its policing role in Indian Country, and sufficient funds must be allocated for public safety programs.
• Enforce equal financial footing for tribes as governments: The administration should give tribal leaders the same financial tools, opportunities and autonomy given state and local governments in such areas as issuing tax-exempt bonds and handling pension plans.
* Support tribal youth wellness: Invest in Native children by supporting a youth-led wellness initiative that addresses their needs for safety, education, health care and job skill development.
* Ensure equitable distribution of funds to tribal governments: Don’t back away from investments that can transform Native communities. Funding for tribal government services should be exempt from discretionary spending freezes and cuts.
* Improve interagency coordination to address tribal infrastructure and natural resources: Many tribal programs are burdened by excessive administrative requirements. There must be a federal commitment to address those barriers in more effective ways.
* Take administrative action to address the Supreme Court’s Carcieri decision: A year ago, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Carcieri v. Salazar that is inhibiting many development projects on Native land. The decision threatens Congress’ intent to restore tribal self-determination and to treat all tribes regardless of when they received federal recognition.
A transcript and the seven actions are available on the NCAI Web site.
What do you think is the State of the Indian Nations?
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