Blog Posts Related to the Native American Community

  • Strengthening Health Care in Indian Country

    HHS Sebelius Sawmill Headstart with Children

    Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius meets with the children of Sawmill Headstart. (Photo Credit Navajo Nation Press Office)

    I recently had the honor of visiting leaders and members of the Navajo Nation in Arizona. Their hospitality and kindness speak to the best values of the Navajo culture and traditions. And they, like tribes across the country, are critical partners in the Administration’s efforts to promote the health and well-being of all Americans.

    At the Sawmill Head Start Program and local Boys and Girls Club, I saw how local educators are helping prepare young American Indian children to succeed in school and pursue their dreams. On a tour of the Navajo Special Diabetes Program for Indians Wellness Center, I saw dedicated caretakers work to prevent and manage a disease that affects too many on and off the reservations. During a visit to a Tribal elder’s home, I gained a greater understanding of ways we can improve living conditions for all families in the Navajo Nation.

    And I was especially proud of the great effort by the staff of the Gallup Indian Medical Center, who recently achieved a Level III Trauma Center designation – a first for the Indian Health Service (IHS). The work of the IHS at this facility, and throughout Indian Country, saves countless lives. That’s why since day one of this Administration, improving the IHS has been a top priority.

    In fact, we’ve done more to modernize the IHS and advance overall health in Indian Country in President Obama’s first term than has been done in years. We have increased the IHS budget by almost a third, which is helping improve access to needed services.

    HHS Sebelius Sawmill Headstart

    Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius meets members of the Sawmill Headstart Parents Council at the Sawmill Headstart. (Photo Credit Navajo Nation Press Office)

    Another critical step forward is implementing the Affordable Care Act, which contains many important benefits for American Indians and Alaska Natives. First and foremost, it includes the permanent reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, ensuring that the IHS is here to stay. It also improves benefits and protections for American Indians and Alaska Natives who have insurance, whether they receive care inside or outside the IHS. And it gives them more choices for health coverage, including Medicaid and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

  • SBA Signs Symbolic Alliance with the Native American Contractors Association

    Ed note: This is cross-posted from the SBA blog.

    The U.S. Small Business Administration and the Native American Contractors Association (NACA) have signed a strategic alliance memorandum to widen our reach to Native American entrepreneurs and boost entrepreneurship opportunities.

    SBA continues to work to impact our Native American small business owners. This alliance strengthens both our organizations’ goals: supporting the creation, development and expansion of small businesses in the American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities.

    NACA promotes the common interests of Tribally-owned corporations, Native Hawaiian Organizations (NHO), and Alaska Native Corporations (ANC), and also promotes the benefits of using Native-owned firms with high quality products and services in the federal marketplace and supports the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program. In addition, NACA monitors federal economic and business development policies and utilizes their member driven perspective to advocate on their behalf.

    By combining our resources with NACA, we can continue to spur new business growth and innovation for the nearly 240,000 Native American-owned small businesses. I want to thank NACA for their commitment to this effort as we work to strengthen and expand small business development within the Native American business community.

    In my last blog I said that SBA will continue our focus to strengthen our education and training for Native American-owned businesses, and we are doing just that.

    In June, the SBA’s Office of Native American Affairs visited the city of Barrow, Alaska, which is one of the northernmost communities in the United States. We had a chance to talk with the leaders of the Alaska Native Village Corporation, who shared great ideas for improving and building tribal businesses in Northern Alaska.

    And in May former Deputy Administrator Marie Johns, Region 8 Administrator Matt Varilek and I visited Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation in North East South Dakota. We talked with tribal leadership and with various tribal departments including economic development and planning about innovation entrepreneurship.

    In May I also had the privilege to participate in a small business roundtable hosted by the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. We met with small business owners to talk about regulatory fairness, contracting and entrepreneurial development.

    The signing of the alliance, as well as our tribal visits are examples of SBA’s proactive outreach to rural Native communities in an effort to support business growth and tribal enterprises by providing the needed tools and resources.

    As a result, SBA will be adding entrepreneurship training and development workshops to both the Lake Traverse Reservation and Navajo Nation.

    Christopher L. James is assistant administrator for the Office of Native American Affairs at the U.S. Small Business Administration.

  • Strengthening our Federal Partnership with Tribal Nations

    This week represents another important step forward in the nation-to-nation relationship between Indian Country and this Administration.  Yesterday, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing a White House Council on Native American Affairs, which will help to continue to strengthen our federal partnership with Tribal Nations.  

    As Secretary of the Interior, I am honored to chair this Council, which will bring together federal departments and offices on a regular basis to support tribes as they tackle pressing issues such as high unemployment, educational achievement and poverty rates.  By further improving interagency coordination and efficiency, the Council will help break down silos and expand existing efforts to leverage federal programs and resources available to tribal communities.

    Throughout the year, the Council will work collaboratively toward advancing five priorities that mirror the issues tribal leaders have raised during previous White House Tribal Nations Conferences: 

    1) Promoting sustainable economic development;
    2) Supporting greater access to and control over healthcare;
    3) Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of tribal justice systems;
    4) Expanding and improving educational opportunities for Native American youth; and
    5) Protecting and supporting the sustainable management of Native lands, environments, and natural resources.

  • Responsibility to Future Generations: Renewable Energy Development on Tribal Lands

    Today, the President announced his comprehensive plan to cut the carbon pollution that is changing our climate and affecting public health.  Reducing carbon pollution will keep our air and water clean and safe for our kids and grandkids.  It will also create jobs in the industries of the future as we modernize our power plants to produce cleaner forms of American-made energy that reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  And it will lower home energy bills and begin to slow the effects of climate change.

    David Agnew Meets with Leaders of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians and the Moapa Solar Project

    David Agnew, Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, meets with leaders of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians and the Moapa Solar Project. (by Eric Lee)

    While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we need to begin preparing to leave a safe and clean planet to our children.  Last weekend, in the desert northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, I had the privilege of visiting a project that is already working to meet the challenges laid out today in the President's Climate Action Plan.  The intense desert heat and bright sun made it crystal clear to anyone who stepped outside that this location has plenty of solar energy to harness. 

    The Moapa Solar Project, on the Moapa River Indian Reservation, is a 350 megawatt solar energy project that will help power over 100,000 homes and generate 400 jobs at peak construction.   The Moapa Paiute tribe has set aside approximately 2,000 acres of their 72,000 acre Reservation for the project, including some acreage to ensure a protected habitat for the endangered desert tortoises living near the project. A commitment to protect their tribal homelands from the effects of existing power sources led this tribe to gain approval from the Secretary of the Interior in 2012 for construction of the first utility-scale solar project on tribal lands.  As part of the President's all-of-the-above energy strategy, the Moapa Solar project will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil while creating good jobs in the heart of Indian Country - jobs that can’t be shipped overseas. 

  • Celebrating and Supporting Native Fathers

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the Administration for Children & Families' Blog

    ACF’s vision for fatherhood is that every parent is actively engaged in his child’s healthy development, and intellectual, emotional and financial well-being. Strengthening and supporting families is the mission critical effort to all of the programs that ACF operates from Head Start to TANF, to the Office of Child Support.

    Research tells us that children thrive and develop to the best of their abilities when the adult in their lives are doing well. For Native American children, there is an additional layer of historical trauma that can interfere with children’s emotional and intellectual development. ANA’s mission of promoting cultural preservation and self-sufficiency makes ANA uniquely suited to provide support to communities for Native fatherhood initiatives.

    Earlier this year ANA was able to partner with ACF Region X Office and the ANA Alaska Technical Assistance Center to support the 2013 Alaska Native Fatherhood Summit, read more about that event we blogged about in February. We also hosted a webinar recently about the Aha Kane movement in Hawaii, and how the return to cultural teachings and traditions for Native Hawaiian men is restoring their self-esteem and mental health.

    The capacity to be a responsible father or mother is formed over a lifetime, and many of ANA’s grants contribute to a healthier community and improved learning and economic opportunities that create an improved environment that supports family self sufficiency.

    For example the Minneapolis American Indian Circle of Generations aims to reduce the intergenerational involvement in the child welfare system through the use of cultural teachings. They host an elder’s lodge, conduct monthly cultural activity groups that form a support network, and provide case management that connects parents to resources and services to create a healthy and supportive home life.

    Many ANA projects, like the White Earth Band of Chippewa’s Healthy Families Healthy Communities project seeks to address the impact of historical trauma and its manifestations through a culturally validated educational program that includes parent mentoring.

    In addition to these competitive grants, ANA is working with the Native American Fatherhood and Families Association on a national campaign to promote the importance of fatherhood in Tribal communities in a one-year cooperative agreement. Fathers, according to NAFFA President Al Pooley, are Indian Country’s greatest untapped resource. Using a positive approach, NAFFA encourages fathers to take a leadership role in their families emotionally, spiritually and economically.

    As part of this Fatherhood initiative, we are strongly encouraging all Native communities throughout the United States, including American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to organize events on or around Saturday, June 15, for National Native American Responsible Fatherhood Day to celebrate and promote Fatherhood. Activities can be as simple as a Tribal Proclamation or community barbeque, or as elaborate as a weekend canoeing and camping trip with their children. The purpose of these events is to celebrate and encourage active engagement. They can also be an effective tool to connect fathers and families to community services.

    We are especially encouraging Tribal ACF programs and Tribal Housing Authorities to register their participation in local events. Too often our thoughts are focused on what is wrong in our community, and this event is an opportunity to celebrate those that strengthen our communities with their wisdom, skills, generosity and time.

    If you want to learn more about ACF Responsible Fatherhood Initiative, ANA’s Strengthening Family Resources, click on the links or visit

    Lillian Sparks, a Lakota woman of the Rosebud and Oglala Sioux Tribes, is the Commissioner of the Administration of Native Americans.

  • Building Opportunities in Indian Country: Congratulations to the Graduates of Navajo Technical College

    Dr. Jill Biden walks with the procession of graduates of the Navajo Technical College Class of 2013

    Dr. Jill Biden walks with the procession of graduates of the Navajo Technical College Class of 2013, Navajo Tech President Elmer Guy, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and the Board of trustees on the Navajo Tech campus in Crownpoint, New Mexico. May 17, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    On Friday, I had the honor of addressing a class of graduates at Navajo Technical College in Crownpoint, New Mexico. The Navajo Tech graduating Class of 2013 earned certificates in 34 fields that will provide the tools they need to serve their community as teachers, nurses, engineers, mechanics, bankers, chefs and countless other opportunities all made possible by their commitment and dedication to improving themselves through the pursuit of a higher education.

    Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) play a key role in President Obama’s educational goal of making the United States home to the best-educated, most competitive workforce in the world. TCUs are critical institutions that build tribal communities, create good jobs across Indian Country, and provide Native Americans with the skills they need to do those jobs.

    As a community college teacher, I love seeing what a tremendous difference a community like the one I saw at Navajo Tech can make in the lives of its students.

    The impressive class of graduates included veterans like Jerrilene Kenneth, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army mechanic, before she became the first college graduate in her family with an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education. It also included Navajo Tech Student of the Year Sherwin Becenti, who dropped out of college more than ten years ago but returned to school in order to build a better life for his family and set a good example for his children. Dwight Carlston, who grew up with no running water or electricity, was also among the graduates. Dwight maintained a 3.8 grade point average, ran cross country, served as Student Senate President and was recently elected as the Student Congress president of all 38 tribal colleges.

  • Celebrating Two Years of Let’s Move! in Indian Country

    Jodi Gillette at Chimney Rock

    Matthew Mooney, Jodi Gillette, and Dakota Lorenzo at Chimney Rock (by Harry Burell, Southwest Conservation Corps)

    I recently had the honor of attending an event to mark the 2nd Anniversary of Let’s Move! in Indian Country at Chimney Rock National Monument in southwestern Colorado. I hiked and learned about this magnificent landscape on our way to the top with fifty youth from the Southern Ute Montessori Elementary, the Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture Butch Blazer, and a handful of youth from the Pueblos who work with the Southwest Conservation Corps, an AmeriCorps partner organization that engages and trains a diverse group of young women and men and completes conservation projects for the public benefit.

    I had lengthy conversations with Aaron Lowden, an Acoma Pueblo, regarding the strength and resiliency of the ancient people who built and lived in that space, and how their journey is connected to his own. Below I’d like to share some of his thoughts:

    Guwaatse howba tu shinomeh kuwaitiya eshte e Aaron Lowden madiganashia kuhaiya haanu stu da aakume’ haanu stu da! Hello everyone my name is Kuwaitiya in Acoma and Aaron Lowden in English and I come from the bear clan of the Acoma people. I am a program coordinator for the Southwest Conservation Corps' (SCC) Ancestral Lands regional office in Acoma Pueblo, NM.

    Our day began in the way I began this blog with a greeting to all attending the Let’s Move! in Indian Country (LMIC) 2nd Anniversary event and by saying a prayer. The prayer was done for the entire group before we entered the ancient Puebloan site of the recently designated Chimney Rock National Monument, CO.  It is as a sign of respect for those who came before to let them know we were there to learn from them. When we started at the trail head we were joined by Southern Ute schoolchildren, the Southwest Conservation Corps, the US Forest Service and US Department of Agriculture to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of LMIC. We were also joined by Jodi Gillette, the White House Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs and Butch Blazer, the Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment at the Department of Agriculture.

    Finally, we were ready to do what we all came there to do: get outside and get active. Led by the Chimney Rock Interpretative Association guides, we hiked with anticipation to see the ruins. Walking through the Great Houses on steep inclined trails the group gained knowledge by experiencing the difficult and active living conditions of the original occupants of these sites. 

    Aaron Lowden Welcomes Hikers to Chimney Rock

    Aaron Lowden welcomes hikers and youth to Chimney Rock (by Harry Burell, Southwest Conservation Corps)

    We learned how every single bit of rock and mortar had to be transported up to the top of this steep peak. If you were to talk with one of the ancestral inhabitants today and ask them about environmental stewardship, exercising, and eating right it’s reasonable to assume that they wouldn’t know what you were talking about, it’s just how they lived.

    Today, Native Americans – particularly youth – have one of the highest obesity rates in the country. Although progress can be a good thing and has made our lives extensively easier, it is imperative that we keep these reminders and retain our old ways to have a healthy future as indigenous peoples. I feel this is even more appropriate when on the subject of Native American issues of our health and environmental stewardship. After all, if we can’t take care of the haatsi (land), how can we expect it take care of us.  By getting outside and being active in our country’s public lands, and by eating right and caring about where our food comes from, we can raise a healthier, more environmentally conscious generation.

    After the group finished the hike, the Southwest Conservation Corps Ancestral Lands staff prepared a popular Pueblo dish: green chili stew. We were all ready to eat after our hike! Everyone enjoyed the nutritious meal and discussed the hike while the students played outdoors.

    As the day winded down and once everything was finished, we all headed home thankful for the beautiful day we had been given.

    Please click here to learn more about Let’s Move! in Indian Country.

    Jodi Gillette is the White House Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs

  • Quinault Indian Nation

    Ed JohnstoneEd Johnstone is being honored as a Champion of Change for his efforts as a Community Resilience Leader.

    I am a Fisheries Policy Representative for the Quinault Indian Nation, a land of cliff-lined beaches on the Pacific Ocean, evergreen forests, rivers, lakes, and mountains. We fish the same waters and hunt the same lands our ancestors did thousands of years before people from other parts of the world ever came here. We meld our traditions and legacies with technological innovations and provide new opportunities for our hard-working people; however, we always maintain environmental stewardship and sustainability at the forefront of our priorities and spiritual connection.

    The Quinault Nation seeks every opportunity to merge our efforts with those of other governments as well as other people from all walks of life as long as they demonstrate respect for our history, our sovereignty and our land, our treaty-protected rights, and the rights of future generations to inherit a healthy world. Economic prosperity and gainful employment are congruent with these things, as long as care, cultural sensitivity, and wise, long term decision-making are the primary considerations in management planning and implementation. Because of this, I gladly accept the honor of being named a “Champion of Change” because – as you know- change is mandatory. 

    It is important for other Americans to understand the perspective of Native Americans—to learn from it and hopefully adopt elements of it in their own lives. We have lived here a very long time. Survival and adaptation are concepts we Indians know very well. We breathe the same air and walk on the same land as other Americans. We drink the same water. We share a common future. In the long run, humanity will either prosper, or perish, together. Climate change is a major anthropogenic environmental concern, which affects Tribes directly. It has already had major impacts on our lands, causing massive fish kills and transmigrations through hypoxia and ocean-warming, intensified storms and flooding, glacial melting and expanded droughts, eroded beaches and invasive species. 

    Quinault Nation and other indigenous nations have been responding to climate change for years, and the need to support us in our efforts as well as work with us in a team effort to deal with this issue, as effectively as possible, is absolute. I was proud to the co-chair First Stewards, a non-profit organization which presented a major climate change summit at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC this past summer, and which will continue to bring indigenous people for the U.S. and American territories together over climate issues in the years to come. I am currently treasurer of First Stewards. For more information on this program, please visit our website at

    I have worked in the timber and fishing industries of the Quinault Indian Nation most of my life. I am a two-term Quinault Councilman, serving from 1996-2002, and serve as treasurer of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. I also chair the Intergovernmental Policy Council, a forum of tribal and state co-managers of the ocean area that includes the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. 

    Edward Johnstone serves as the Quinault Indian Nation Policy Spokesperson on all issues regarding ocean policy and treaty fishing rights