The Obama Administration has done more than any other to build a stronger and more prosperous Indian Country. As part of his commitment to strengthening nation-to-nation relationships with Indian tribes, President Obama hosted his seventh White House Tribal Nations Conference in November 2015. The Conference built on the President’s trip to the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, where he dedicated efforts to improve opportunities for Native youth and affirmed his promise to work together with tribes on education and economic development in Indian Country.
While many challenges still exist, in 2016, the Administration will focus on institutionalizing the cross-agency cooperation necessary to create meaningful and lasting change to better honor our government-to-government relationships with tribal nations. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will continue the conversation with two visits to Indian Country this week. She will visit the Cove Day School on Navajo Nation in Arizona to highlight continued progress in the transformation of the Bureau of Indian Education, and then she will make a major announcement on the restoration of tribal homelands at the Pueblo of Isleta in New Mexico.
- In her visit to Cove Day School on Navajo Nation, Secretary Jewell will highlight significant budget gains for the Bureau of Indian Education as it transforms into an organization focused on school improvement and student success based on the specific goals and needs of the particular tribal government.
- Secretary Jewell will also announce budget gains to address long overdue repairs and renovations to schools like Cove Day School, enabling students to learn in a safe and healthy environment.
- At the Pueblo of Isleta in New Mexico, Secretary Jewell will announce the largest number of acres accepted in trust in a single application as part of the Administration’s goal of restoring tribal homelands and supporting economic development opportunities across Indian Country.
- Improving Outcomes for Native Youth – Through new investments, increased engagement and public private partnerships, Interior is working to ensure all Native youth attending schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Education reach their full potential. Interior is continuing to advance the Administration’s education and self-determination goals by transforming the Bureau of Indian Education into a school improvement organization that helps tribal governments educate their youth. This includes building the capacity of tribes to operate their own schools, recruiting and retaining effective teachers and principals, promoting a culturally appropriate curriculum, reducing bureaucracy, addressing infrastructure needs, and ensuring that programs available for education across the Administration also include tribes.
- Restoring Homelands – As part of Interior’s work to support economic development in tribal communities, the Department has strengthened tribal control of tribal resources, including land and water. Interior is making progress toward the goal of restoring 500,000 acres of tribal homeland held in trust and expects to reach that milestone before the end of the Administration. In addition, through the Cobell Settlement land Buy-Back Program, nearly $730 million has been paid to individual landowners and the equivalent of nearly 1.5 million acres of land has been restored to tribal governments. At the same time, Interior will continue to implement and negotiate Indian water rights settlements to ensure tribal homelands have long-term access to clean water supplies and tribes fully benefit from their reserved rights to water.
You can find more information about Secretary Jewell's travel to Indian Country this week and see how far the Obama Administration has come in the past seven years on behalf of all Americans.