Blog Posts Related to the Native American Community

  • Removing Barriers to Successful Agriculture in Indian Country

    Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

    Being a part of the White House “Champions of Change” is both an honor and humbling experience. It was an honor to be in the presence of the President and humbling as there are thousands out there who have accomplished more for their communities than me.

    I began work for the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) 20 years ago as a Natural Resource Director which entailed the identification and solutions to regulatory barriers presented by both the Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior. In 1998, I was promoted to Director of Programs and assigned the responsibility of the day to day supervision of the 11 employees. The individual who played the leadership role in bringing about the formation of the IAC had to resign for medical reasons in 2001 and the Board of Directors selected me to fulfill the role of Executive Director.

    The IAC Board of Directors is comprised of individual Board Members who represent one of the 12 regions of Indian Country, and it is the Board of Directors that set the priorities for the overall direction of the organization as well as assign tasks to the Executive Director. For this reason, I believe that each of our Directors should play a role in the recognition of the Intertribal Agricultural Council.

    IAC was founded in 1987 by order of Congress to pursue and promote the conservation, development and use of Indian Country agricultural resources for the betterment of Native American people. Land-based agricultural resources are vital to the economic and social welfare of many Native American and Alaskan Tribes. The harmonies of man, soil, water, air, vegetation and wildlife that collectively make-up the American Indian agriculture community, influence our emotional and spiritual well-being. Prior to 1987, American Indian agriculture was basically unheard of outside reservation boundaries.

  • Tribal Members in Rural America

    Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

    I recently was invited to the Champions of Change event for rural America. It was great to meet with President Obama and Secretary Vilsack and hear how much they cared about some of the unique issues facing rural America. The President took the time and was gracious enough to introduce himself to everyone at the meeting. All and all, not my typical Wednesday afternoon.

    I run a company called Ho-Chunk, Inc. located on an Indian reservation in Winnebago, Nebraska. The company is owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and our mission to create job opportunities for our tribal members and to help our tribe become economically self-sufficient. After 15 years of efforts we have companies involved in retail, government contracting, distribution, construction, housing and various internet companies. We do work in three other foreign countries. We started with 1 employee and now have 1400. Our revenues have grown from zero to close to $200 million a year, all in a rural Nebraska town of 1500 people.

    In 1991, the tribe had an unemployment rate of approximately 60 percent. Now we have more jobs than working age people in our community. We are proud of our accomplishments economically, but social and educational development are just as important to our tribe. In 2000, Ho-Chunk, Inc. started a non-profit corporation called the Ho-Chunk Community Development Corporation. The non-profit's mission was to help make our community a better place and to provide supplemental capital to build the infrastructure in our community to help it grow. To date, our non-profit has raised over $23 million for our community.

  • Winning The Future for Native American Youth

     On Sunday, the White House Office of Public Engagement launched the Native American Youth Challenge program.  In a video message, President Obama announced the challenge at the 2011 UNITY Youth Conference, calling for young American Indian and Alaska Native leaders to submit their stories of leadership and service in their communities.  The stories submitted will be considered and evaluated based on ademonstrated record of service to one’s tribe, nation, village, or community.  Young leaders who have sought to improve their communities are encouraged to submit stories in one or more of the following areas:

    • Education, Mentorship or Afterschool Programs;
    • Sports, Nutrition or Let’s Move! in Indian Country;
    • Substance and Alcohol Abuse Prevention;
    • Health and Wellness, including Youth Suicide Prevention;
    • Building Healthy Relationships and Peer Relationships;
    • Cultural Preservation and Native Languages;
    • Anti-Bullying and Personal Empowerment;
    • Self Expression through Arts and Crafts;
    • Emerging Leadership in Government Service; and
    • Economic and Community Development

    As a part of the challenge, a handful of exceptional Native youth community leaders will be invited to the White House this fall in conjunction with the activities of Native American heritage month.  Submissions should include a description of the leadership initiatives or community programs; the number of people involved or effected; key examples of success; and explanations of the barriers or challenges and how they were overcome.   Simply put, we hope to hear from Native American Youth to learn about how you are working to overcome the challenges facing your communities – send us your stories!

    One great example of how young people are overcoming the challenges facing Indian Country is by taking part in the First Lady’s initiative, Let’s Move! in Indian Country.  Today, the White House Summer South Lawn Series hosted a lacrosse event for approximately 80 Native American youth from the Menominee Nation, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Native Lifelines of Baltimore, as well as local youth from Annapolis and D.C.  The groups played and learned about Lacrosse with some of the best players in the game, while also learning about the origins of the game and cultural traditions from members of the Onondaga Nation.  Let’s Move! in Indian Country strives to bring  together federal agencies, communities, nonprofits, corporate partners and tribes to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in Indian Country within a generation. 

    Charles Galbraith is the Associate Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement

  • Collaborating with Tribes through the White House Rural Council

    On June 9th, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council. While rural communities face challenges, they also present economic potential. The Council will address these challenges, build on the Administration’s rural economic strategy, and improve the implementation of that strategy.

    The Council, chaired by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, was established to focus on policy initiatives for Rural Americans and will coordinate to increase the effectiveness of federal engagement with tribal governments. According to the 2010 U.S. Decennial Census, 42.6 percent of all Native Americans live in rural areas. In addition, some reservations face unemployment rates of up to 80 percent. The Council will work across federal agencies to address these challenges and promote economic prosperity and quality of life in Indian Country and across rural America. The Council will work to break down silos and find areas for better collaboration and improved flexibility in government programs and will work closely with state, local and tribal governments, non-profits, and the private sector to leverage federal support.

    Plans are already underway for the Council to address ways to expand access to capital in rural communities, including an examination of the unique challenges facing Indian Country in increasing the flow of credit to Indian reservations. Economic development and job creation in Indian Country—and in all other sectors of the U.S. economy—depend on access to capital. When credit-worthy business owners can easily borrow to finance business start-up and expansion, the economy thrives. One thing we hear from tribal leaders, however, is that borrowing money for business development in Indian Country is difficult. The reasons range from difficulties in using tribal land as collateral, to the small number of lending institutions serving Indian Country, to lenders’ perceptions that lending to tribal members or tribal governments is risky.

  • A Historic Step Toward True Trust Reform

    Ed. Note: WhiteHouse.gov just launched a new page dedicated to the Native American community, view it here.

    An historic court action on June 20 signaled the beginning of a new era in the U.S. Government’s relations with American Indian communities.

    By approving the $3.4 billion settlement of the Cobell v. Salazar lawsuit, U.S. Senior District Judge Thomas F. Hogan paved the way for payments to as many as a half a million American Indians to resolve their class-action litigation regarding the federal government’s management of their individual trust accounts and assets.

    A fund of $1.5 billion will be used to compensate class members for their claims regarding potential mismanagement of their trust funds and assets and historical accounting. The agreement also establishes a $1.9 billion fund for the voluntary buy-back and consolidation of fractionated land interests, which have been proliferating through succeeding generations. The program, to be administered by the Department of the Interior, provides individual American Indians an opportunity to obtain cash payments for small divided land interests and free up the “fractionated” land for the benefit of tribal communities.   The settlement also provides for a Indian Education Scholarship Fund of up to $60 million for the benefit of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

  • A New Webpage for the Native American Community

    The White House is pleased to announce the launch of “Winning the Future: President Obama and the Native American Community.”  This webpage is meant to serve as another tool to help Indian Country navigate the federal government and learn about how the President’s Agenda is helping to win the future for Native Americans.

    Since his first day in office, President Obama has worked to strengthen the government-to-government relationship between the United States and tribal governments in order to improve the quality of life for all Native Americans.  Working with tribal leaders through meaningful consultation, the Administration and Indian Country have made significant progress in several areas.  We made sure the Recovery Act included many job-creating investments for Indian Country.  Our health care reform permanently authorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, and the President signed into law the Tribal Law and Order Act, which will help fight crime in Indian Country.  Furthermore, the Administration finally settled the longstanding legal claims in the Cobell litigation and the lawsuit brought by Native American Farmers against the United States Department of Agriculture.  To mark the launch of this webpage, we are highlighting a guest blog post by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on the recent court approval of the historic settlement in the Cobell lawsuit, “A Historic Step Towards True Trust Reform.

    All of these accomplishments have provided more opportunity and security for Native Americans, but they are just part of our ongoing effort to create stronger tribal communities throughout Indian Country.  This new webpage is designed to be a centralized forum to share information about those ongoing efforts, while continuing to improve our government-to-government relationship.

  • Overcoming Life Struggles with Fatherhood in the Tribal Community

    Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

    I am from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community located in Arizona.

    I was born in Tucson, AZ where after just being born, my struggle in life began. When I was born 2 months early, my Grandmother Dorothy told me I was so small that I could fit into the palm of a hand and the doctor said they didn’t know if I was going to make it. I spent the next six months living in a plastic bubble.

    After I survived that first struggle, the next struggle came when my family moved off the reservation and moved into the city. Some of the friends I met there were not the best influences, which lead to getting into a life of crime and drugs at a very young age. I spent most of my time away from home because I hated to see the hurt in my own family so it was best for me to just stay away all day. As I grew up, I took that life back to the reservation and my negative influence on the community eventually lead to my extradition from the reservation. 

    It was then that I came across the Fatherhood program that got me to see and listen to myself. It helped me to actually understand the destruction I caused in our community. The Fatherhood program gave me tools of life that helped me build myself and become the individual that I am today. I overcame all the obstacles and I got a job within the tribal complex and actually kept it, and support my eight children. A nice home filled with happiness.

  • SAIGE 2011 Conference Brings Together Current and Future Group of Public Servants

    OPM Director John Berry with SAIGE Youth Track

    Director of the Office of Personnel Management John Berry meets with young leaders at the Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE) 2011 Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 14, 2011. (Photo by Jeff Barehand, SAIGE)

    I’m in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE) 2011 Conference.  One of my favorite parts of serving as Director of OPM is the opportunity to work with so many amazingly dedicated, talented Americans who have chosen to work as public servants.

    Many of our Federal public servants are American Indians and Alaska Natives, and I came to share information with them and seek their input.  I also got to meet some of the young people attending the conference and I hope they will become Federal – and SAIGE – leaders of tomorrow.

    OPM is engaged in meaningful consultation with American Indian and Alaska Native leaders about how to best add tribal employees to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.  This exciting new opportunity, created by the Affordable Care Act, will be a great new benefit for tribal workers and their families.