On Thursday, January 22 National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby delivered his State of Indian Nations Address to members of Congress, senior officials, leaders of tribal nations and Indian country with a reported 50 or more ‘viewing parties’ all over the country.
During his address, though President Cladoosby covered a wide range of topics to include the improvement of tribal economies, the need for investments in education, and governmental support toward innovations in tribal governments, some folks still thought Cladoosby’s approximate one hour address left some stones unturned.
Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), the new chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, followed Cladoosby with the Congressional response – members of the audience and press also asked several questions regarding Native youth suicide and other issues such as the Carcieri issue, housing and Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s proposed bill to create a Commission on Native Youth.
Bernadette EchoHawk, (Pawnee) the membership coordinator for the National American Indian Council expressed that she was appreciative of the efforts of the NCAI to discuss a plethora of important issues to Indian country but felt Cladoosby neglected to mention housing.
“There are obviously many issues that face Indians, tribes today, he certainly addressed all of them and covered the goals that NCAI has for the year, however one that I think is imperative and was not mentioned at all was housing…it would have been nice to hear it mentioned at a national level,” EchoHawk said.
Lance Gumbs of the Shinnecock tribe in New York said Cladoosby’s address did well to address the pertinent issues in Indian country but thought the Carcieri v. Salazar issue of land into trust was left unaddressed.
“The Carcieri issue does affect a number of tribes throughout Indian country especially with a lot of these lawsuits that are happening,” he said.
After Cladoosby’s live address, members of the media, viewers all over Indian country and members of the audience were asked to pose questions. Indian Country Today Media Network asked Cladoosby ‘s views regarding the prevalence of Native youth suicide on today’s reservations.
Cladoosby responded that he did not know of any community or tribal chairman that has not been affected, with emotion in his voice called the matter very sad and that to make a difference in terms of suicide, families would have to turn away from drug and alcohol use that has been present for generations and “breaking the cycle of abuse” was key.
Though some individuals thought more could have been added to the conversation, Samantha Eldridge from the Navajo nation thought well of Cladoosby and the NCAI’s addressing of Indian country topics.
“I thought this was very empowering because a lot of things we hear in the media are negative perspectives of what goes on in our Indian nations,” she said. “To hear Cladoosby talk about our accomplishments really provided a vision for our nations to move forward.”