State of Indian Nations Address
Dakota Digest - 02/01/2010
By Charles Michael Ray
President Obama delivered his State of the Union address last week - but it wasn't the only address in Washington. The president of the National Congress of American Indians also gave a State of Indian Nations address. The address called for continued nation to nation relationships with the federal government and outlined the challenges ahead for tribal sovereignty and economic development.
The National Congress of American Indians is the oldest and largest Indian organization in the United States. Jefferson Keel from the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma is the organization's President. Keel began his speech by addressing the importance of tribal sovereignty.
"Let there be no confusion about the relationship between Indian nations and the United States - Indian nations are sovereign nations with formal governments and have been for thousands of years. This inherent sovereignty is recognized in article one of the constitution, The congress should have the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states and among the Indian tribes, over 200 years of supreme court decisions have consistently held that Indian tribes retain the inherent sovereignty," says Keel.
Acording to Keel Ingenious Nations around the country are growing stronger every day, with new forms of Economic Development and a continued effort to expand sovereignty and self determination.
"But now we need to take the next steps toward the evolution of tribal self government particularly in land management, job creation, law enforcement, taxation and revamping our programs and services to create a healthy environment for our children. These services, these changes will be of Historic proportions. Especially for how we govern, how we sustain our cultural and how we as Indians live our daily lives - sovereignty is our right but it's also our responsibility," says Keel.
Keel says efforts to increase self determination among Indian nations helps address the challenges that continue across Indian Country.
Sovereignty has practical and tangible benefits for Indians and for the Unites States as a whole - It 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 - it contributes to the cultural diversity of the United States. It contributes to the cultural diversity of the United States. I'm please to announce that the Administration and Congress - have taken important steps to recognize out sovereignty and the our self determination - as they say in Washington - we are taking our rightful place at the table," says Keel.
Keel says the issue of chronic unemployment across Indian Country must be dealt with.
For most Americans going up to ten percent unemployment has become a crisis of historic proportions. For Indians coming down to ten percent would be a recovery of historic proportions. Imagine men and women who have tried and failed to find work year after year - imagine wanting something better for your children knowing that the dropout rate for highs school is higher among native communities than any other minority group in the country. Imagine the place you live has the lowest college graduation rate in the United States - what encouragement does a child have to study and prepare for meaningful work when their parents can't find a job for years - wouldn't your hope run out.
To deal with these problems Keel lays out seven things the Obama Administration can do in the next year to improve lives in Indian Country, including, restoration of the tribal land base, improving law enforcement, and tribal infrastructure.
"As we continue to exercise our sovereignty Indian national will receive the respect we have long deserved and we can further engage into a government to government relationship that will transform lives in Indian Communities - that is our most basic goal and it will benefit all nations for generations to come," says Keel
Jefferson Keel from the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma is the President of the National Congress of American Indians.
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