Blog Posts Related to the Native American Community

  • Expanding Opportunities for Tribal Communities

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Labor's blog. See the original post here.

    Since Labor Secretary Tom Perez arrived one year ago this week, he has referred to the Department of Labor as the “Department of Opportunity.” He believes it’s our mission to expand opportunities by ensuring that all Americans are treated fairly at work, that they are safe while on the job, and that they have access to the training and employment resources to achieve their goals. And he’s made this a priority for Native Americans and Alaska Natives, who often face unacceptably high levels of unemployment in their communities and tribal nations.

    Earlier this week, Secretary Perez traveled to Alaska to meet with leaders from the Cook Inlet Tribal Council to see how our investments − through grants from the department’s Division of Indian and Native American Programs − are creating opportunity for native peoples. Gloria O’Neill, who has served as president of the council since 1998, shared how the funding has helped expand social services for her community: Today, more than 12,000 individuals benefit annually from a wide array of programs, including child and family services, education, employment and training services, and programs helping formerly incarcerated individuals successfully transition back into their community.

  • President Obama Engages Native Youth at My Brother’s Keeper Town Hall

    Today, President Obama hosted a town hall session where he gave remarks to announce new commitments in support of the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative and engaged in dialogue with young boys and men of color. Youth from the Center for Native American Youth’s Champions for Change program, the Native American Political Leadership Institute’s INSPIRE Initiative, and the Navajo Nation attended the town hall and asked the President about the Administration’s work to support Native American language and cultural preservation. The President reaffirmed his commitment to Native American youth and the importance of honoring one’s roots. Recalling his trip to the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation in June, he applauded the tribe’s work on Lakota language revitalization and the powerful stories he heard from the tribe’s young people.

    In his remarks, President Obama thanked the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and their partners for committing to establish an MBK task force for Native American boys and men. NCAI will form the task force in partnership with the Center for Native American Youth, the Native American Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the National Indian Child Welfare Association, the National Indian Education Association, and UNITY Inc. NCAI stated in a press release that the task force will “coordinate and serve as the central point for sharing important work, opportunities, and resources for our youth."

    The President also announced that Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Deloitte CEO Joe Echevarria will launch the National Convening Council (NCC), an independent private-sector initiative bringing together leaders from business, philanthropy and the faith, youth and nonprofit communities to combine their efforts to have a positive impact on boys and young men of color. 

    "My Brother’s Keeper isn't some new, big government program. It's actually a team effort,” said President Obama. “It’s all about a whole bunch of folks -- educators, business leaders, faith leaders, foundations, government -- all working together to give boys and young men of color the tools that they need to succeed and make sure that every young person can reach their potential."

    Raina Thiele is Associate Director in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

  • Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience Announces Tribal Climate Resilience Program

    Today, at the fourth and final meeting of the White House State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, the Administration announced the new Tribal Climate Resilience Program to help tribes prepare for climate change. 

    As part of this new initiative, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will dedicate $10 million in funding for tribes and tribal organizations to develop tools to enable adaptive resource management, as well as the ability to plan for climate resilience. The program will offer nationwide climate preparedness planning sessions and provide funding for tribal engagement and outreach within regional and national climate communities.

    “Building on the President’s commitment to tribal leaders, the partnership announced today will help tribal nations prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change on their land and natural resources,” said Secretary Jewell.

    The Department of the Interior and Environmental Protection Agency will also partner to create a new subgroup on climate change under the White House Council on Native American Affairs, which will share data and information and coordinate Administration efforts to assist tribes in climate resilience and mitigation efforts.

    “Tribes are at the forefront of many climate issues, so we are excited to work in a more cross-cutting way to help address tribal climate needs,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.  “We’ve heard from tribal leaders loud and clear: when the federal family combines its efforts, we get better results - and nowhere are these results needed more than in the fight against climate change.”

    Task Force members Chairwoman Karen Diver of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and Mayor Reggie Joule of the Northwest Arctic Borough were tasked by the President with providing recommendations on climate preparedness and resilience specific to tribes. They led a national effort consisting of listening sessions, conference presentations, and agency webinars, to collect a multitude of tribal input on how to make tribal communities more prepared and resilient in the face of climate change. These recommendations will form the basis for their final recommendations to the Administration.  

    We look forward to continuing our work with Indian Country on this important topic and thank Chairwoman Diver and Mayor Joule for their tireless efforts leading to today’s announcement of this crucial new program.

    Raina Thiele is the Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. Susan Ruffo is the Associate Director for Climate Preparedness in the Council on Environmental Quality. 

  • AmeriCorps Expands Presence in Tribal Communities

    During his June visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation in Cannonball, North Dakota, the President re-emphasized the Administration’s focus on strengthening Native American communities through education and economic development. Thus, as part of the Obama administration’s commitment to create lasting change in Indian Country, we are pleased to announce $3 million in AmeriCorps grants to support Native American communities. 

    These funds will bolster President Obama’s priorities for tribal communities and increase the number of AmeriCorps members serving these communities by 41 percent. AmeriCorps members serving in these programs – most of whom will be recruited from Indian Country – will be eligible to earn $1 million in education scholarships to help pay for college or repay their student loans -- putting them on track for greater economic opportunity in the future.

    Through these 17 tribal grants – the highest number approved in the past decade – the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) will support more than 250 AmeriCorps members serving with tribal organizations in 13 states. AmeriCorps members will serve side-by-side with tribal elders and local leaders. They will work to tackle key issues facing Native American communities:

  • The President and First Lady's Historic Visit to Indian Country

    President Barack Obama Attends the Cannon Ball Flag Day Powwow in Cannon Ball, North Dakota

    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attended the Cannon Ball Flag Day Powwow in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on June 13, 2014. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    On Friday, June 13, President Obama made a historic trip to Indian Country when he traveled to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation in Cannonball, North Dakota. This trip marked his first visit to Indian Country since taking office, and one of the few trips to an Indian reservation by a sitting President. Accompanied by the First Lady, the President met with Native American youth, tribal leaders, and attended the tribe’s annual Flag Day celebration where he spoke to Indian Country.  

    The President first announced his plans to visit the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on June 5 in an Indian Country Today op-ed that described his goals for strengthening economic development and educational achievement in Indian Country.

    Since taking office, President Obama and his Administration have worked closely with tribal leaders, and last year he created the White House Council on Native American Affairs to ensure cross-agency coordination and engagement with Indian Country. The President has also hosted five annual White House Tribal Nations Conferences, an event where he invites leaders from all federally recognized tribes to engage in direct talks with high-level Administration officials.

    As the President said in North Dakota, “Today, honoring the nation-to-nation relationship with Indian Country isn’t the exception; it’s the rule. And we have a lot to show for it.”

  • An Update on the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative

    President Barack Obama meets with foundation and business leaders to discuss "My Brother's Keeper," an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color

    President Barack Obama meets with foundation and business leaders to discuss "My Brother's Keeper," an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Feb. 27, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    “My administration’s policiesfrom early childhood education to job training, to minimum wagesare designed to give a hand up to everybody, every child, every American willing to work hard and take responsibility for their own success. That's the larger agenda. 

    But the plain fact is there are some Americans who, in the aggregate, are consistently doing worse in our societygroups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions; groups who’ve seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations. And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color.”

    President Obama used these words to launch My Brother’s Keeper, his initiative to help ensure that boys and young men of color in America have the opportunity to reach their full potential. 

    Since then, the public response has been overwhelming. We’ve heard from private philanthropies and businesses, mayors, state and local leaders, faith organizations, community based non-profits, and thousands of  interested citizens, all who are committed to creating more pathways to success for these boys and young men. We will continue to engage and listen to these critical voices and those of the boys and young men this initiative focuses on, as we continue to learn from the efforts of the many stakeholders who have been committed to this cause for years. And we will do our best to live up to the optimism and incredible expectations this initiative has unleashed. 

  • USDA Continues Reaching Indian Country Through the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
    Finding groceries can be difficult in many inner city neighborhoods, and in many rural areas the challenge can be even more daunting. Americans living in remote areas might easily spend half a day just making a grocery run. And for many Native Americans living on Indian reservations, simply getting to a place to purchase nutritious foods becomes a constant struggle.
    Food security is a top priority for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Expanding access to nutritious food will not only empower American families to serve healthy meals to their children, but it will also help expand the demand for agricultural products.”
    One program expanding access to nutritious foods is the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). FDPIR was first authorized under the Food Stamp Act of 1977 to provide access to nutritious foods to low-income Native American households. FDPIR is administered locally by either Indian tribal organizations (ITOs) or an agency of a state government. Currently, there are about 276 tribes receiving benefits under FDPIR, with an average of 82,600 participants each month.
    Because FDPIR is administered directly on Indian reservations, it can eliminate the need for recipients to travel great distances simply to acquire nutritious foods. Eligible participants are able to choose from over 70 food options that can be used to create meals that align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate. In Fiscal Year 2009, the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), which rates diets based on overall nutrition, rated the FDPIR food option package at 85.3 (an HEI score above an 80 is considered a healthy diet).
    To assist in the preparation of healthy meals using FDPIR foods, FNS recently worked with tribal members to create a recipe book. “A Harvest of Recipes with USDA Foods: The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)” provides creative, regional recipes using FDPIR food options. Each recipe features sensible levels of fat, sodium, and sugar without sacrificing taste. The recipes also list nutrition facts.
    The FDPIR has made great strides in providing access to nutritious foods and reducing food insecurity on Indian reservations. For more information on FDPIR, visit
    Leslie Wheelock is the Director of Tribal Relations at the U.S. Department of Agriculture

  • Sun Rises on Tribal Energy Future in Nevada

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Energy
    Last Friday was a momentous day for the Moapa Band of Paiute in Nevada. Joined by executives of First Solar, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and numerous dignitaries, including U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, tribal leaders and community members broke ground on the 250-megawatt Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project on the Moapa Indian Reservation  making it the first utility-scale solar project on tribal land.
    Set to be fully operational by the end of 2015, the Moapa Southern Paiute Solar project will deliver clean, renewable energy to the City of Los Angeles for 25 years, providing enough energy for more than 93,000 homes. This amount of renewable energy will displace approximately 313,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually  the equivalent of taking about 60,000 cars off the road.
    The solar project won’t just benefit the environment. It is also having a big effect on the Moapa tribe. The project is expected to create 400 construction jobs, many of which are already being filled by qualified tribal members. Other members of the tribe are taking advantage of the project’s training opportunities to contribute to the clean energy economy.
    It has been a long journey for Moapa’s elected and community leaders  one that I witnessed firsthand  as they found a way to balance the promise of a clean energy future and the community’s pressing energy needs.
    Moapa tribal leaders were one of the first to meet with us after the Energy Department’s Office of Indian Energy was established. With a clear vision in mind, the Tribe’s leadership requested technical assistance on this utility-scale project as well as smaller-scale solar projects that could offset the tribe’s high energy costs.
    In addition to the Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project, we also worked with the Moapa tribal government and the Department of Agriculture on an on-site, off-grid solar project that will provide all the energy needed to power the Tribe’s travel plaza. It has been a collaborative and rewarding effort for both the community and Energy Department, who share a common goal of supporting tribal efforts that show potential for fulfilling the real promise of clean energy development in Indian Country.
    At the groundbreaking, Moapa Chairwoman Aletha Tom eloquently phrased the challenge the tribe faced as they create economic opportunities while preserving the Moapa land and cultural heritage. “This is an important step in becoming a leader in Indian Country and will help to create a model for other tribes to follow. If our small tribe can accomplish this, then others can also. There are endless opportunities in renewable energy, and tribes across the nation have the available land on which to build them.”

    Tracey A. LeBeau is the Director of the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs at the U.S. Department of Energy