The United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. (USET) opened its annual meeting and expo at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York with the passing of fire from the Wabanaki Tribes to the Oneida Indian Nation – hosts for the three day event.
The USET annual meeting will continue until Thursday and will bring together tribal leadership from the 26 member tribes, along with federal government officials to participate in open discussions on a variety of topics.
Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation representative and CEO of Nation Enterprises, parent company of Indian Country Today Media Network, provided the welcoming remarks following the passing of the fire. “Shekoli. On behalf of the Oneida Indian Nation, I proudly welcome you to USET’s Annual Meeting and Expo. USET’s legacy has grown from its fledgling four members in 1968 to a burgeoning 26-member organization. Over the intervening years, USET has helped to strengthen Indian country through its advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill to its fight against diabetes. USET has helped to ensure that our voices are heard on important issues we all face,” Halbritter said.
The sacred fire is an important aspect to meetings held by the Wabanaki Confederacy nations – the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Micmac and Maliseets – as reported by ICTMN in July. The fire was lit during USET’s mid-year meeting in Harbor, Maine – Confederacy territory – and generated an energy throughout the meeting they brought it back for the annual meeting. A Tobacco burning accompanied the fire to start the day.
USET President Brian Patterson asked tribal leaders to allow the fire to be an icon for the meeting. “We are here to honor our relations to our ancestors, to each other, and especially those next generations to come. Let the fire remind us of our sacred responsibilities we hold for our people and our nations. While the fire burns here in the land of Oneida Indian Nation, this week fuel the fire inside ourselves to advance our efforts to rebuild our Tribal nations,” Patterson said.
Following the opening ceremony today, tribal leadership took part in breakout session that covered the 114th Congress and the President’s remaining years, federal budget, impacts and effects of negative Native imagery and stereotypes, taxation on tribal lands, and protecting and preserving tribal lands.
The annual meeting continues tomorrow with breakout sessions on: World Conference on Indigenous Peoples debriefing, building a collaborative relationship with Bureau of Indian Affairs Eastern Regional office, prescription drug abuse on reservations, exploring economic opportunities, and the 2014 USET executive officers committee elections for President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Officers elected will serve a two-year term.
On Thursday leaders will be involved in the USET business session.