Obama Hosts Conference for Native American Leaders

Tribal leaders plan discussions to strengthen nation-to-nation relations.

ByABC News
November 4, 2009, 7:00 PM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2009— -- President Obama is scheduled to make good today on his campaign promise to host a White House Tribal Nations Conference.

Leaders from 564federally recognized tribes are expected to come to the Department of the Interior for an all-day forum, where they will meet directly with the president and representatives from the administration. The president is scheduled to deliver opening remarks in the morning and closing remarks in the afternoon.

During the day, four discussions led by senior administration officials are planned. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson are among the administration officials who will lead the group discussions.

The groups and tribal leaders are expected discuss areas of economic development and national resources, public safety and housing, education and health and labor.

"I look forward to hearing directly from the leaders in Indian Country about what my administration can do to not only meet their needs, but help improve their lives and the lives of their peoples," Obama said in a statement. "This conference will serve as part of the ongoing and important consultation process that I value, and further strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship."

On the presidential campaign trail, Obama vowed to appoint an American Indian policy adviser to his senior White House staff to work with tribes and host an annual summit at the White House with tribal leaders.

He fulfilled the first promise in July, naming Kimberly Teehee as senior policy adviser for Native American affairs and a member of his Domestic Policy Council.

The national conference scheduled for today, fulfilling the second promise, would be the first for Native Americans since President Bill Clinton hosted a summit in 1994.

"Few have been ignored in Washington as long as Native Americans, the first Americans," Obama said last year while campaigning in Butte, Mont. "Too often, Washington has paid lip service to working with tribes while taking a one-size-fits approach to tribal communities across the nation. That will change when I am president of the United States."