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WASHINGTON - The President of the National Congress of American Indians, Jefferson Keel, has released a statement on the passing of Elouise Cobell, calling for Indian Country to honor the legacy of one of Indian Country's most influential advocates by continuing to protect the rights of American Indian and Alaska Native people everywhere. The National Congress of American Indians also called for Indian Country to honor her life by confronting the quiet but devastating force of cancer, which took the life of Elouise Cobell and is the second leading cause of death among American Indian women and Natives older than 45.
"Elouise Cobell represented the indelible will and strength of Indian Country and her influence and energy will be greatly missed. Her passing on from this world must be honored by reaffirming our resolute commitment as Indigenous peoples to protect the rights of our citizens and our sovereign nations," said Keel, President of National Congress of American Indians, the nation's oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native advocacy organization. "National Congress of American Indians joins all who mourn the loss of this great individual. She committed her life to strengthening Indian Country and she contributed greatly."
Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe in Montana and lead plaintiff in the historic Cobell v. Salazar litigation, was presented with National Congress of American Indians' Indian Country Leadership Award soon after the Cobell Settlement was finalized in 2010. The award recognized her years of work as the spokesperson and moral force behind the effort to restore justice to American Indian account holders. National Congress of American Indians has also passed resolutions strongly supporting the Cobell settlement.
"From her life, we have lessons of resilience and commitment, and in her passing, we have lessons that will inspire us to continue improving the health of Native people," continued Keel. "Just like Elouise taught us, we must not shy away from taking on what seems impossible. We must acknowledge cancer's vicious assault on Indian Country's most valuable resource, our people. We will honor her with a promise to the future generation of leaders that follow in Elouise Cobell's footsteps, to continue the fight for the health of our people."
In 2008, the American Cancer Society released the first large-scale national study about cancer rates of American Indians and Alaska Natives. The report stated "For all cancers combined: Incidence rates among American Indians in the Southwest, the Plains and for Alaska Natives were 50 percent higher than the rates for non-Hispanic whites."
posted October 18, 2011 6:40 am edt
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