Obama presidency brought ‘renewed era of federal-tribal relations’

February 3, 2017


Mikhail Sundust

Gila River Indian News


The White House has called the Obama administration “a renewed era of federal-tribal relations.”


In a January 2, 2017 report, the White House Council on Native American Affairs (WHCNAA) outlined a number of successes the Obama administration has had working with and for tribes.


“Historic progress has been made during the Obama Administration to improve the nation-to-nation relationship between the United States and federally recognized Tribes,” reads the WHCNAA report. “The Obama Administration and Tribal Nations have worked together to accomplish shared goals and achieve milestones that upheld self-governance and self-determination – the foundation for prosperous and resilient Tribal nations.”


The WHCNAA is a creation of the Obama administration.


“While the Administration and Tribes have partnered for historic achievements, there is still much more to do. President Obama signed Executive Order 13647 on June 26, 2013, establishing the WHCNAA, which represents a path to a more effective federal government for Indian Country,” says the report.


One of the administration’s most notable accomplishments is the creation of the White House Tribal Nations Conferences.


“President Obama created a new tradition by inviting elected Tribal leaders from each of the now 567 federally-recognized Indian Tribes across the country to attend the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference. Each year during his Administration, the President and his Cabinet officials met with Tribes to discuss Tribal priorities and to chart the next course of action to address the many needs across Indian Country,” reads the report.


The Obama administration will be remembered for the $3.4 billion Cobell Settlement, which included $1.5 billion in direct payments to members of the class action lawsuit and created the National Commission on Indian Trust Reform, the Indian Education Scholarship Fund, and the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations.


In 2015, the Obama administration created the Generations Indigenous (Gen-I) Initiative.


As the report details, “Gen-I is an…initiative seeking to improve the lives of Native youth through new investments and increased engagement. Gen-I improves the lives of Native youth by promoting a national dialogue and policies and programs to mobilize and cultivate the next generation of Native leaders.”


The Gila River Indian Community was one of the first Native communities to respond to the Gen-I call. The Akimel O’odham/Pee Posh Youth Council has been active in the Community since 1988, and in 2015 a handful of its youth representatives attended the White House Tribal Youth Gathering.


“Thousands of Native youth and organizations have accepted the Gen-I challenge by joining the Native Youth Network to give back in a positive way to their communities,” says the report.


“Together in partnership with the federal government, Gen-I is building a nationwide commitment to ensure that our Native youth have the tools they need to thrive.”


Pres. Obama promoted self-determination and empowered tribes to manage their land and criminal enforcement through the passage of a number of legislative acts, including the Tribal Law and Order Act, the Violence Against Women Act and the HEARTH (Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership) Act.


The Obama administration has supported tribal communities in a number of ways. The full WHCNAA report is available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2017/01/02/renewed-era-federal-tribal-relations.