Pushing Obama to Appoint a Tribal Economic Development Council
American Indian leaders and Native-focused legislators are pushing President Barack Obama to use his executive powers to establish a tribal economic development council made up of actual tribal leaders.
Such a move, say advocates of the seemingly common-sense idea, would illustrate that Obama and his administration are serious about creating an overarching economic plan for Indian country, and it would put more weight behind a series of disjointed initiatives his team has already offered.
They note, too, that the President of late has been willing to face scrutiny from Republicans by expanding his use of executive powers on immigration reform, health care, and other issues, so they wish he would add this pressing area to his agenda. And there’s already a model in place for him to do so, exemplified by his creation of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology through executive order in 2010.
“It’s time to diversify the conversation,” says Gary Davis, president and chief executive officer of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, who noted the idea was seriously discussed at the organization’s recently-concluded Washington, D.C.-based Reservation Economic Summit. “We need the Native people who are advancing economic development in Indian country every single day weighing in, making sure that the proper tribal perspective is being offered.”
Indian leaders know full well that the president has already created a White House Native American Affairs Council, but they widely lament that it is made up mainly of non-Indian agency officials spread throughout the vast administration who don’t have the on-the-ground experience rooted in the realities of tribal economies.
It makes for a good photo op when the administration’s council gets together, Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, has said, and agency officials can therefore say they are focused on tribal economic development, as well as a bevy of other tribal issues. However, given the limited tribal input built in to this system, tribal leaders have feared that the council misses major opportunities to improve struggling reservation economies.
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