White House Tribal Nations Conference
President Obama's Cabinet members spoke about progress made during 2012 including: Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius’ announcement of an agreement for the Department of Veterans Affairs to reimburse the Indian Health Service (IHS) for services to Native veterans; a presentation by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis regarding finalization of the department’s consultation policy; a talk by Secretaries Salazar and Vilsack about the new interagency policy on sacred places; an announcement by Acting Secretary Blank of $6.6 million from the Department of Commerce for business centers serving Native entrepreneurs and businesses; and the presentation of a guidance document on General Welfare Exclusion by Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wolin.
In his speech before nearly 500 tribal leaders, President Obama remembered the late Crow leader, Sonny Eagle, who adopted him during his 2008 campaign. He went on to mention key achievements such as the settlement of the long-standing Cobell case and the appointment of Native Americans to key leadership positions.
He recalled how in 2010 he signed into law the Tribal Law and Order Act which has helped to fight crime in Indian Country, but emphasized the continued need to strengthen justice through passage of the Violence Against Women Act. As in last year's speech, he said there is a real need to expand economic opportunities on tribal lands through improvements to infrastructure, such as roads and broadband. Finally, he acknowledged the need to protect and strengthen sovereignty. He told the audience of his determination to pursue the so-called "Carcieri Fix". an amendment to the Indian Reorganization Act designed to help tribal nations put their land into federal trust.
Members participateing from President Obama’s cabinet included Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Hilda Solis, Secretary of the Department of Labor, Neal Wolin, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Ken Salazar, Interior Secretary. Tom Vilsack, USDA Secretary, Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, and Rebecca Blank, Acting Secretary of Commerce. The department heads all met with tribal leaders during concurrent breakout sessions.