Obama tells tribes they won't be forgotten

Nov. 5, 2009 at 3:31 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama told representatives of 564 federally recognized tribes he is on their side because he knows what it's like to be marginalized.

Obama opened a daylong summit at the Interior Department, trying to address tribal leaders' skepticism about Washington's willingness to listen to their concerns and respect treaties.

"I know what it means to feel ignored and forgotten, and what it means to struggle," Obama said. "So you will not be forgotten as long as I'm in this White House."

He said the day's conference wasn't lip-service but "part of a lasting conversation that's crucial to our shared future."

He said he was signing a memorandum directing all agencies to provide him their plans to implement an executive order issued during the Clinton administration on establishing regular and meaningful consultation between the nations and the federal government.

In the nine years since then-President Bill Clinton signed the executive order "only a few agencies have made an effort to implement that executive order. And it's time for that to change," Obama said.

"(Being) good partners with tribal nations is a responsibility we've all got to take on. And that's why representatives of multiple agencies are here today, because if we're going to address the needs of Native Americans in a comprehensive way, then we've got to mount a comprehensive response."

Obama then fielded questions from the participants.

When opening the summit, Obama told of a visit he made to the Crow Nation in Montana, where he was adopted into the tribe.

"Only in America could the adopted son of Crow Indians grow up to be the president ...," he said to laughter and applause.

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