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Unprecedented Number of Native Americans in Portland for NCAI’s 68th Annual Convention

PORTLAND, Ore. – Tribal leaders from across the U.S. and Alaska have converged in this Pacific Northwest city for the National Congress of American Indian’s week long 68th Annual Convention and Marketplace, and cultural celebration that started October 30.

The weeklong convention at the Oregon Convention Center focuses tribal leaders, political officials, educators, and advocates on those policies that will strengthen tribal nations.

Indian Country Today Media Network is reporting on site, with additional ICTMN coverage of non-NCAI Native-related conferences timed by Native organizations to take advantage of the sheer numbers of tribal citizens gathered here – some 3,000 by many estimates. NIGA’s Ernie Stevens Jr.’s remark, “This gathering is unprecedented in Portland’s history,” was echoed by those familiar with this national organization that originally convened in 1944. Lewis & Clark Law School’s Portland-based Indian law scholar Robert Miller said the last time NCAI was in Portland was 36 years ago.

This year’s NCAI’s theme is, "Footprints into the Future: Our Shared Journey Toward Tribal Prosperity." By NCAI estimates, the conference is adding $1.3 million dollars to the region’s economy. The Marketplace is host to nearly 200 arts, business, and educational vendors, and is open to the public at the Oregon Convention Center until November 3 until 5 p.m.

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Many important initiatives are being launched by the national organization here, one of them is their 2012 Native Vote initiative that kicked off at their October 31 Halloween Party intended to attract the young in the audience. NCAI plans to launch a number of other initiatives that will include an American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month focused on Native youth. On November 1, NCAI hosted a General Assembly session that developed key messages for the 2011 White House Tribal Nations Conference with President Obama set for December 2 in Washington, D.C.

The Portland convention runs through November 4.