The National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp, Quinault, delivered the State of Indian Nations address on Feb. 22. The annual speech marks a new year and a new message to Congress focused on how relationships with tribal nations can — and must — be improved.
A few of her remarks:
“Simply put, NCAI speaks our shared Native truth to American power and the American people. In that spirit, I stand before proclaim, the state of Indian Nations is standing strong. Our resolve is being tested by dire crises across multiple fronts but we are rising to the occasion undaunted, drawing on the strength, fortitude, wisdom and lived experiences of our ancestors, who overcame equally great challenges in their time to prepare us to meet the challenges of our time.
“Tribal nations are curtailing the spread and impacts of the virus, combating climate change, growing the movement for equality and justice, confronting continued threats to tribal jurisdictions and self governance and sparing no effort in holding the federal gov accountable to its trust and treaty obligations to all of us.”
“Unprecedented turnout by Native voters made the pivotal difference across several swing states, affirming that Indian Country is an undeniable force in our American democracy.”
(Related: State of Indian Nations goes virtual)
“If the United States is truly committed to embracing our shared future with courage it must formally acknowledge and reckon with the wrenching pain its failures continue to cause our tribal nations and communities. It must use the lessons it learns from this process to create an altogether different story with Indian Country. One that affirms through its laws, policies, regulations and governance the inherent rights of tribal nations to control their own lands, affairs and destinies. And one that supports and enhances in every conceivable way, the full and free expression of tribal sovereignty by tribal governments.”
“Indian Country is encouraged by several actions already taken by the new administration. For example, the president historic nomination of congresswoman Deb Haaland as the first Native person to lead the department of Interior which most profoundly impacts the daily lives of Native people than any other federal agency...We call upon congress to confirm Deb Haaland without delay.”
“Indian Country should no longer have to suffer the consequences because congress can’t get the country’s financial house in order.”
“Every single exhausting day, tribal nations are demonstrating we know best how to care for our own people. From vaccinating our Native language speakers and elders first, to providing nourishment to food insecure families who have lost jobs and income. To erect checkpoints at reservation boundaries and provide non-congregate sheltering to stem the virus spread. We are fighting an unrelenting battle against this horrible virus but we need the federal government to do its part so we can protect our people, provide ongoing relief to affected tribal citizens and implement self-determined strategies that help our tribal governments, economies and communities recover.”
“NCAI and our partners are seeking $20 billion in additional federal relief for tribal governments as well as maximum flexibility in spending rules and time frames for how and when we can use new and existing funds.”
“We need the necessary healthcare infrastructure, such as adequate staff, supplies, necessary storage capacities and culturally appropriate resources for patient education to broadly administer the vaccine in a timely fashion.”
“The federal government simply must do better.”
“We call on the federal government, state and local governments, school boards and other key stakeholders to create, fund and implement a comprehensive curriculum about tribal nations, tribal sovereignty and the rich histories and contemporary lives of Native people. THis curriculum should be designed by local tribal educational experts and provided to k-12 schools throughout this country. We also call on them to help us finally retire those Indian school mascots that dehumanize us and foster a hostile learning environment for our youth.”
Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix.
Shirley Sneve, Sicangu Lakota, is a producer/writer for Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter @rosebudshirley She’s based in Nebraska and Minnesota.
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