White House Hosts Tribal Nations Conference

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Hundreds of tribal leaders descended on Washington December 5 to take President Barack Obama up on his invitation to attend the fourth White House Tribal Nations Conference of his administration.

The meeting, held at the U.S. Department of the Interior headquarters blocks away from the White House, signified a kept promise by Obama, who told Native Americans when he was first running for president in 2008 that he would regularly meet with them in an effort to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship between tribes and the United States.

By most accounts the meetings to date have been useful, with tribal leaders having had the opportunity to discuss and highlight sovereignty, culture, self-determination, and economic concerns. Even administration organizers admit, however, that it is difficult to address the vast needs of the 566 federally-recognized tribes in a single yearly meeting, which is why the administration and some of its agencies have regularly held smaller tribal events and meetings throughout Obama’s first term—a trend that is expected to continue over the next four years. The hope is that future presidents will keep that ball rolling as well.

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