Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
“The State of Indian Nations is strong.
Our nations are strong.
Our peoples are strong.”
NCAI President Jefferson Keel
Declared President Jefferson Keel, Chickasaw, of the National Congress of America Indians yesterday in his annual address that came on the heels of President Obama's State of the Union address of Tuesday evening and Navajo President Shelly's State of the Navajo Nation of Monday.
The 10th Annual State of Indian Nations address was held at the Newseum, Knight Studios, in Washington. It is the same studio where the ABC Sunday morning program "This Week with George Stephanopoulos' originates.
The nationally broadcast speech throughout Indian Country was made in front of a packed studio audience of mostly American Indians that included several tribal chairmen, two United States Senators and US Representative Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, who is the only American Indian serving in Congress. Mr. Cole is a tribal member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma.
President Keel spoke for just over 30 minutes to numerous rounds of applause.
He called on President Barack Obama to act on the following for American Indians:
First, we call on the President to send a Special Message to Congress on the importance of the Nation-to-Nation Relationship. In 1970, President Nixon sent a historic message to Congress on tribal self-determination. That message launched the self-determination era - the very framework that allowed tribes to prove our capacity as governments. All Presidents should do the same.
Second, we call on the President to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We specifically call for a review of all existing federal law to ensure they are in alignment with the Declaration.
Third, we call for an Annual Nation-to-Nation Summit and ongoing high-level meetings. This would institutionalize the current Tribal Nations Summit, a meaningful commitment to our nation-to-nation relationship that must be upheld by all future Presidents. We also call on the President to convene regular meetings on specific issues between tribal leaders and cabinet secretaries.
Fourth, elevate Native people in the federal government. It is past time for qualified Native people to be seated on the federal bench. The appointment of a Senior Advisor on Native American Affairs has advanced policymaking at the White House and we applaud President Obama for his leadership. With the importance of the Indian budget in the coming decade, we urge the creation of an office for Native American programs at Office of Management Budget.
And finally, we call upon all candidates to actively engage Indian Country in your campaign. We invite each candidate to visit Indian Country to outline your policy positions. We also urge the campaigns to make sure tribal nations are part of the discussion at the Presidential debates.
President Keel discussed the importance of American Indians participating in the 2012 election process and the making sure presidential candidates for both parties do not ignore the Native vote.
“Native people don't see the world in two and four year election cycles. We're focused on building stronger communities for generations to come,”
"When we step in the ballot box, we want to vote for candidates who will stand with tribal nations to create a strong prosperous future. We are not mobilizing for one party or for one candidate."
“Indians don't just vote D for Democrat or R for Republican. For us, it's "I" for Indian.”
"This may be the best speech he ever made. It was very strong,'
said Matt Wesaw, chairman of the Pokagon Potawatomi Indians, based in Dowagiac, Michigan.
Rep. Tom Cole
After President Keel's speech, Congressman Cole made remarks in response. He called on American Indians to think in terms of
“self-determination; self-governance and self-reliance.”
Watch the State of Indian Nations Address in its entirety here »
posted January 27, 2012 10:20 am est
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