First Lady Melania Trump met with Indian Health Service officials on Thursday at the White House.
Trump received a task force briefing on “Protecting Native American Children in the Indian Health System.” The White House streamed the roughly 30-minute briefing on social media.
Trump talked about her Be Best campaign and its focus on children's well-being.
"Native American children, like all children, deserve to grow up in a safe, supportive, nurturing environment," Trump said. “Strong Native American communities are strong American communities.”
Santee Lewis, executive director of the Navajo Nation Washington, D.C. Office, spoke about protecting Native children and the hardships many face.
“Our children are faced by numerous challenges, including a lack of infrastructure that empowers them to learn on digital platforms and availability of programs and initiatives that present physical, emotional, and recreational opportunities that most American families access easily. Nevertheless, we are proud of the accomplishments of our youth and pleased to know that issues of abuse in the IHS are being addressed.”
After the briefing, in a statement, Lewis said the task transcends politics.
"The task has has done a heroic job of shining a light in the darkest spaces of multiple systems that for a variety of reasons failed our children. We can do better. We need to do better. The best way to do that is to take up this task force’s recommendations to improve the culture at Indian Health Services by: Establishing more clear reporting requirements, training employees about the reporting process (and) improving background checks.
Most briefing participants wore face masks when not speaking and were sitting apart from each other. Trump didn’t appear to wear a mask.
Trump plans to visit the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma to promote health and well being as part of her Be Best campaign. She said she accepted the nation’s invitation. She didn’t say when she would visit but is looking forward to it.
“We welcome First Lady Melania Trump on her visit to Cherokee Nation and we’re excited to show her the advances tribal nations are making in the field of health care for Native people and children,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., said in a statement.
Here’s a full list of briefing attendees:
- First Lady Melania Trump.
- Trent Shores, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma and Task Force Co-Chair.
- Bo Leach, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Indian Affairs.
- Stephanie Knapp, Child/Adolescent Forensic Interviewer, Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Office for Victims Assistance, Child Victim Services Unit.
- Shannon Bears Cozzoni, Tribal Liaison and Assistant United States Attorney, US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma.
- Curt Muller, Special Agent, HHS Office of the Inspector General.
- Santee Lewis, Executive Director, Navajo Nation (Washington, DC office).
- Stephanie Grisham, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff & Spokesperson to the First Lady.
- Emma Doyle, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy to the First Lady
- Kellyanne Conway, Assistant to the President and Senior Counselor.
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