Obama Does It Again: 2012 White House Tribal Nations Conference

Rob Capriccioso
December 05, 2012


Hundreds of tribal leaders descended on Washington December 5 to take President Barack Obama up on his invitation to attend the fourth White House Tribal Nations Conference of his administration.

The meeting, held at the U.S. Department of the Interior headquarters blocks away from the White House, signified a kept promise by Obama, who told Native Americans when he was first running for president in 2008 that he would regularly meet with them in an effort to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship between tribes and the United States.

By most accounts the meetings to date have been useful, with tribal leaders having had the opportunity to discuss and highlight sovereignty, culture, self-determination, and economic concerns. Even administration organizers admit, however, that it is difficult to address the vast needs of the 566 federally-recognized tribes in a single yearly meeting, which is why the administration and some of its agencies have regularly held smaller tribal events and meetings throughout Obama’s first term—a trend that is expected to continue over the next four years. The hope is that future presidents will keep that ball rolling as well.

The president is scheduled to address the tribal leaders today at 3 p.m. ET.


Morning session highlights:

-- A sacred sites report will be released on December 6, says USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. It will focus on better federal communication on sacred sites and protection.

-- Vilsack also says there are Keepseagle settlement funds remaining for Indian farmers.

-- Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Service Kathleen Sebelius announces that the Indian Health Service (IHS) will be reimbursed by Department of Veterans Affairs for veteran health services IHS provides. “This agreement will make it easier for tribes to enter their own agreements with VA for the health services they provide,” she adds.

-- Sebelius recalls her own recent visits to reservations. On whether President Obama will follow her lead and visit a reservation in his second term, White House spokesman Shin Inouye tells Indian Country Today Media Network, “I have no scheduling announcements to make.”

-- "We've awarded $6.6 million for business centers serving Native entrepreneurs and businesses,” says Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, adding that a Commerce tribal forum was held in the fall and one is planned for spring.

-- "Native American graduation rates are unacceptably low. There are 9 states with graduation rates lower than 60 percent for Native students," says Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, adding that federal and state school systems must do better for Native children. 

-- Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal S. Wolin announces new proposed guidance that lays out broad exclusions from income to certain benefits that Indian tribal governments provide to tribal members. He also outlines new procedures for the reallocation of Tribal Economic Development Bonds.

-- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says Carcieri is an issue that needs to be fixed by Congress—hopefully we will see, he says.

-- Salazar says that this White House Tribal Nations Conference signifies that Obama understands Indian concerns.

Indian Country Today Media Network will have updates from the conference throughout the day.


Submitted by Anonymous on

that is a good idea to prevent war between our peoples
he promised to make them first americans again
i know they will be come that no matter what obama does
the title stone is in posession right now and ready to be returned

Submitted by Anonymous on

"The president is scheduled to address the tribal leaders today at 3 p.m. ET." Maybe one of these times, he'll let them address him?

Submitted by Anonymous on

This POTUS is just using us. He lies about everything then lies some more. He has two faces and neither face knows the truth

Submitted by Anonymous on

We can only hope that our concerns are met, and the needs of the people are met. We have many issues and needs that must be met. better housing, better medical, better health care. And that only touches a few of them. I pray that he does keep his promise to meet the needs of our people, it will be a first...toksa.

Submitted by Anonymous on


Submitted by Anonymous on

Yes I think the prez should vist some of the natives, but not the bigger ones, there is a lot of small ones, in out of the way places that he should see!!

Submitted by Anonymous on

This warms my heart. There is so much that needs to be done. But at least someone is trying.

Submitted by Anonymous on

As a Lakota elder, I can only wish the best for my people, and by my people , I mean all native people, regardless what nation you are from. I can' t remember a recent time, other than Mr. Obama's inauguration, that we as Native people have had so much to celebrate about. Today, we celebrate the Cobell settlement, the purchase and return of Pe' sla' , the purchase and return of the Pechanga tribes creation land, American Indian Heritage Month, a National celebration, and the fact we are still here and a vibrant, viable and relevant Nation of people. Let us all be thankful to the Creator and our ancestors, for keeping us strong and intact. Of course we have different opinions, and all are respected, but we are blessed after all is said and done.

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