State of Indian Nations: A New Era Where Tribes Doing Big Things Build a Stronger America

This post was prepared by the National Congress of American Indians

NCAI President Jefferson Keel

Today, Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians, will deliver the 9th annual State of Indian Nations address today at 10:30am from Washington, D.C. Immediately following President Keel’s address, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska will deliver a Congressional response.

The address is an annual event hosted by NCAI and broadcast to communities throughout America. The speech will reflect on the state of Indian Country heading into 2011 and outline the key priorities for the federal government to consider when working to uphold the federal trust responsibility.

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A new era for Indian nations

In the speech, Keel will thank Congress and the Administration for the exceptional bipartisan achievements of 2010, noting that achievements like the Cobell settlement and Tribal Law & Order Act ”set the stage for a new era in Indian Country.” In prepared remarks, Keel notes the constitutional status of tribes as “nations within a nation” and their place “in the company of ‘foreign nations’ and ‘the several states.’”

The address will acknowledge challenges faced by Native people with unemployment rates that are “often four to five times [the rate] of the country as a whole” but will argue that tribes see “every challenge as an opportunity.”

Tribal energy: An investment worth making

Keel will draw attention to the fact that tribes care for 10 percent of America’s energy resources worth nearly a trillion dollars in revenue, including significant renewable energy potential. Investments in tribal energy development “will mean long-term economic development, and in turn the United States will become stronger.”

Indian Country is ready to “do big things”

Responding to President Obama’s call in his State of the Union address to secure the future by doing “big things,” President Keel noted the immense potential to invest in broadband development to close the gap between tribal communities (with 10 percent broadband availability) and the nation as a whole (with more than 95 percent availability).

A shared passion for more efficient government

Keel’s remarks commend many new members of Congress for their shared passion for “self-reliance and more efficient government.” He notes that Native people need “a government that respects our Constitutional sovereignty…whose leaders want to cut the red tape that blocks investment.”  Many of these changes are about offering tribes the same opportunities available to other governments and “won’t cost a penny.”

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