Washington D.C. –
Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Vice Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs discussed the need to tear down economic development barriers to a full house of tribal leaders, White House officials, policy makers and stakeholders, at the State of Indian Nations Address, yesterday.
The State of Indian Nations Address, which was delivered by National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President, Jefferson Keel, focused on key policy goals for Indian Country in 2012 and highlighted the progress that Congress has made by working in a bipartisan fashion.
“There are some important things that Congress can do right now that can grow Indian economies and create jobs without spending a dime,” said Keel. “The Congress can fix the problems created by the Carcieri Supreme Court decision and offer certainty for land-into-trust transactions that are critical to Indian Country’s economic future.”
“The most pressing need we have is a Carcieri fix. That has been the number one priority for Indian Country for the last several years. We absolutely need that fixed today.”
“In keeping with the federal policy of self-determination and self-governance, the Committee will continue to build the record on issues vital to Native peoples, their unique identities, and the importance of their homelands,” said Chairman Akaka. “My priorities remain passing a clean fix to the Carcieri decision and the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act to achieve parity for Native Hawaiians.”
“They’ve worked hard to focus attention on Carcieri in the Senate. They’ve worked hard on economic development issues and to begin to educate their colleagues on a bipartisan basis in the areas in which we can move together. We have a strong bicameral as well as bipartisan partnership in Native American affairs,” said Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK), who delivered the State of Indian Nations Congressional response.
“For all of the partisan challenges of the past year, Congress has found common ground on Indian policy. Under the bipartisanship leadership of Senators Akaka and Barrasso, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has reached across party lines to develop legislation that promises to transform Indian Country,” said Keel.
President Keel also noted that “Tribal nations have proven our capacity. We don’t need the government involved in all our business decisions, we need flexibility. And by creating it, we will remove the barriers that cost us jobs and opportunity. This is a goal I think we can all agree on, across the political spectrum, and it is something we can achieve with a change in policy, not an increase in spending.
“That is the kind of solution Washington is crying out for and we in Indian Country are eager to answer the call,” Keel said.
“I wanted to stand here today with our Chairman to show how we want to work together in a bi-partisan way and we will continue to do that on behalf of the Indian people,” said Vice Chairman Barrasso. “What’s the real headline to this? It is tear down the barriers to success. Remove the obstacles that stand in the way of economic success, of health care, education, and a better way of life.”
“As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I am committed to reminding my colleagues about our trust responsibility and the promises made to tribal nations. And, Vice Chairman Barrasso and I will continue to lead the Committee in a bipartisan manner to resolve ambiguities in federal law regarding the rights of Native communities and the jurisdiction of their governments,” said Akaka.
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