The White House Tribal Nations Conference began this morning at the Department of the Interior in Washington, DC. President Obama is hosting the conference and delivered remarks to leaders of the 565 federally recognized tribes in the United States. This is the second such meeting the president has convened since taking office in 2009.
The conference’s agenda includes discussions about the social, economic and political challenges that are specific to the country’s Native American tribes.
Speaking at the conference this morning the president said:
“We’re moving forward. And what I hope is that we are seeing a turning point in the relationship between our nations. The truth is, for a long time, Native Americans were implicitly told that they had a choice to make…you had to either abandon your heritage or accept a lesser lot in life; that there was no way to be a successful part of America and a proud Native American.
“But we know this is a false choice. To accept it is to believe that we can’t and won’t do better. And I don’t accept that. We know that, ultimately, this is not just a matter of legislation, not just a matter of policy. It’s a matter of whether we’re going to live up to our basic values. It’s a matter of upholding an ideal that has always defined who we are as Americans. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.”
The president also told a story about his visit to the Crow Nation while campaigning for the presidency in 2008. The tribe gave him the Crow name of “One Who Helps People Throughout the Land.” Mrs. Obama declared his name should instead be “One Who Isn’t Picking Up His Shoes and His Socks.”