WASHINGTON – On the eve of a historic tribal conference with President Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., took time to meet with visiting Indian leaders as well.
The meeting was held at the Capitol building Nov. 4 and included a photo opportunity on the speaker’s balcony; it lasted about an hour, according to those in attendance.
The main topic of conversation was health care.
“We come together at a time when we are on the verge of passing historic health care reform legislation, and our members are very enthusiastic about a provision in the legislation that includes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act,” Pelosi said.
The law helps provide a variety of health services to Indian country. It was last reauthorized in 1992, and that reauthorization expired nearly a decade ago.
“It has been a long time coming and it is a moral responsibility that we carry a healthy nation in the country and one that develops with the participation of our tribal leaders to what works best on health care in Indian country,” the speaker continued.
On the eve of the historic tribal conference with President Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., met with visiting Indian leaders. The meeting was held at the Capitol building Nov. 4 and included a photo opportunity on the speaker’s balcony.
“And so this is a historic November month, at a time when we are on the verge of doing something great on health care for all Americans, and it is important that we do it for our earliest Americans.”
In October, the House unveiled a blended health insurance reform bill, which includes language that would permanently reauthorize the IHCIA.
Pelosi previously promised to exempt tribal members from having to pay for any health insurance mandate that is part of health care reform legislation she will oversee to become law.
Tribal leaders seemed largely happy with the event.
“I was told it was going to be quick, but I really felt that she listened to our concerns,” said Matthew Franklin, chairman of the Ione Band of Miwok Indians.
“It was an honor to be there, and I felt like history was being made.”
Franklin was part of a group of leaders associated with the National Congress of American Indians who visited Pelosi. Besides his tribe, more than 15 other tribal nation representatives were in attendance.
Jefferson Keel, NCAI president, said he appreciates Pelosi’s attention to Indian health needs.
“Our friends in Congress on both sides of the aisle are proving their support on our most pressing issues,” said Keel, lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma.
“Today’s developments are encouraging as we head into an historic tribal nations conference with President Barack Obama. … Our Native voices are being heard so we can bring change to our people.”
Franklin said law enforcement issues and the Supreme Court’s controversial Carcieri v. Salazar land into trust decision were discussed.
“We got a lot done in a little amount of time,” he said.
Carlos Sanchez, a spokesman for Pelosi, said the speaker thought the meeting went well and would like to meet with tribal leaders on more topics in the future.
Sanchez said the speaker has met with tribal leaders in the past, but he estimated that the other meetings were not of this magnitude.
Beyond Franklin and Keel, tribal representatives who participated in the meeting included: W. Ron Allen, chairman, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe; Floyd Jourdain, chairman, Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians; Cheryl Kennedy, chairwoman, Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde Community; Hope MacDonald, councilwoman, Navajo Nation; Marshall McKay, chairman, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation; Mark Macarro, chairman, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians; Juana Majel-Dixon, councilwoman, Pauma Band of Mission Indians; Richard Milanovich, chairman, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians; Mark Mitchell, governor, Pueblo of Tesuque; Ned Norris Jr., chairman, Tohono O’odham Nation; Brian Patterson, Oneida Indian Nation and president, United South and Eastern Tribes; Samuel Penney, chairman, Nez Perce Tribe; Buford Rolin, chairman, Poarch Band of Creek Indians; Chandler Sanchez, governor, Pueblo of Acoma; Theresa Two Bulls, president, Oglala Sioux Tribe; and Lynn Valbuena, vice chairwoman, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.