Obama pledges new relationship with Native Americans
Condensed by Native Village

Washington D.C. -  President Obama says that the federal government is guilty of past mistreatment of Native Americans. At a recent summit, he promised to forge a new relationship between the federal government and tribal leaders.

"You deserve to have a voice," Obama told representatives of 386 tribes at a White House Tribal Nations Conference. "You will not be forgotten as long as I'm in this White House."

Obama told federal agencies they have 90 days to recommend ways to improve tribal participation in government policy decisions.

Interior Minister Ken Salazar and other Cabinet members joined the conference. They focused on the challenges and priorities of the tribal leaders and their people.

Leaders of all 564 federally recognized tribes were invited to the daylong meeting.

Obama acknowledged misdeeds by the U.S. government in dealing with Native Americans.

"We know the history that we share," Obama said. "It's a history marked by violence and disease and deprivation. Treaties were violated. Promises were broken. You were told your lands, your religion, your cultures, your languages were not yours to keep."

He also said the federal government has not properly consulted Native leaders and communities on tribal needs.  This had led to:

88% unemployment rates on some reservations
Almost 25% of Native Americans live in poverty;
More than 10% of reservation homes lack electricity or safe water.

During a question-and-answer session, tribal chiefs welcomed Obama and thanked him for his leadership. Many asked for his help on problems facing their people.

Bill Martin, president of the Tlingit-Haida Indian tribes of Alaska, noted that the suicide rate for Native Alaskan men between 15 and 27 years old was 12 times the national average. "It's a serious issue, and we hope that we can be able to provide more funding to combat suicide," Martin said.

Others asked for help on securing land rights, improving education and other social issues.

"I want to give you my solemn guarantee that this is not the end of the process but the beginning of the process and that we are going to follow up," Obama said to applause in his closing remarks. "We are going to keep on working with you to make sure that the first Americans get the best possible chances in life."

Transcript of President Obama's Message to Tribal Leaders:
President Obama's Remarks at White House/Tribal Nations Conference

Watch the entire summit online:
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