WASHINGTON - Early in the morning of Sept. 22 President Bush welcomed
tribal leaders, members of the House and Senate and other members of the
government involved in American Indian affairs to the White House. He used
the occasion of the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian
to celebrate American Indian cultures and to confirm his administration's
recognition of tribal sovereignty.
Much like his father the 41st president of the United States (who signed
into law legislation establishing the National Museum of the American
Indian) President Bush pledged his allegiance to working with tribal
governments as governments of their own standing.
"Native American cultures survive and flourish when tribes retain control
over their own affairs and their own future," remarked Bush. "That is why,
earlier this morning, I signed an executive memorandum to all federal
agencies reaffirming the federal government's longstanding commitment to
respect tribal sovereignty and self-determination. My government will
continue to honor this government-to-government relationship."
John Guevremont, chief executive officer of Mashantucket Pequot Tribal
Enterprises and a tribal member commented favorably upon the president's
remarks. "This is the capstone of this administration's Indian policy,"
said Guevremont. "Acknowledging tribal sovereignty from the White House in
the presence of tribal leaders reinforced where his mind was. In the next
four years we have a lot to look forward to in terms of a cooperative
Guevremont is a lifelong Republican who was instrumental in writing the
party's American Indian platform in 2000.
During the meeting the president also recognized American Indian servicemen
and the contributions of Indians in the armed forces of the United States.
He also mentioned the opening of NMAI as signaling a new beginning for all
of Indian country.
"This was an excellent meeting with the President," said Oneida Indian
Nation Representative Ray Halbritter. "What he said was very well received
by the Indian leaders who were there, and it was an important culmination
to a milestone week in the history of all American Indians."
In what has become somewhat of a diplomatic tradition itself for
presidential administrations, dating back to Presidents Nixon, Ford and
Carter, and including Presidents Reagan and Clinton, the formal
reaffirmation of tribal sovereignty and self-determination helps to
maintain working respect and positive relations between the federal and