WASHINGTON – Native American leaders from across the country met with government officials Wednesday at the 2012 White House Tribal National Conference.
“Today, because we make sure our conversations have translated into action, we can point to signs of real progress,” Obama said at the conference. He mentioned the longstanding Cobell case, in which Eloise Cobell, from the Black Feet Nation of Montana, sued the federal government for mismanaging money from Indian trust assets. The case, a longstanding point of contention between tribal governments and the U.S., was settled in 2009 for $3.4 billion. The tribes are set to begin receiving payments this month.
Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, praised Obama for inviting the tribal groups to Washington.
“This is the first president that has made this commitment to Indian Country,” Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community said. “We got one meeting with Clinton, zero meetings with Bush, now we got four meetings with this president in four years. His commitment to Indian Country has been unprecedented.”
Nathan Small, chairman of the Fort Hall business council of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes, said the breakout sessions at the conference were good. However, federal government employees on the local level need to be informed on the changes being made in legislation and “not make things worse or have to be sued - that’s not necessary.”
Before Obama’s strong effort to restore a relationship with Indian Country, there were issues such as lawsuits and stalled bills that kept both governments apart, Cladoosby said.
Cladoosby said the president made a commitment to settle longstanding cases, and he did.
Looking ahead, Cladoosby said there are trust reform issues that need to be dealt with in the next four years.
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