Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
Our Shared Journey
PORTLAND - To the beats of a traditional drum, full color guard led by veterans who live in the Pacific Northwest, the National Congress of American Indians opened its 68th annual conference in Portland, Oregon on Monday.
Some 2,800 tribal officials from throughout Indian Country are in Portland this week conduct its annual business. It is the first time in 36 years that the National Congress of American Indians has been in Portland for its annual conference.
The National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the United States.
This year's conference theme is "Footprints into the Future, Our shared journey towards tribal prosperity."
“I want to talk about the US Congress 'to-do' list as it relates to American Indians,”
stated US Congressman Jay Inslee, who represents a district in Washington state, welcoming the delegates to the Pacific Northwest.
1. Health care. We need to do more to ensure that all Indians are afforded proper health care;
2. Violence Against Native Women. We have more work to do. The fact that one in three Native women will be sexually assaulted during her lifetime is not acceptable; and
3. Internet gaming. We have to work hard to protect Indian gaming."
“You treated the European interlopers better than they treated you,”
said US Congressman Earl Blumenauer, whose Congressional district includes the city of Portland. He also spoke about the obligations the federal government has to American Indians through treaty rights.
Violence against Native women was a theme spoken by several leaders throughout the day. One in three American Indian women will be sexually assaulted during her lifetime.
President Jefferson Keel
"Abuse and sexual assault against our women is not part of our tradition. It is tragic. This is a problem brought into our communities. It is at epidemic trend, but tied the lack of tribal jurisdiction. We have to address tribal jurisdiction," stated Jefferson Keel, Chickasaw, president of the National Congress of American Indians.
President Keel urged the passage of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act pending in Congress now.
Other topics throughout the day included Native Vote 2012 and the launch of Native American Heritage Month, which begins today - November. This year's theme is focus on Native youth, which has some 1.7 million American Indian and Alaska Native youth nationwide.
Other business to be conducted this week will include the election of officers of the National Congress of American Indians.
posted November 1, 2011 11:40 am edt
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