Obama: A full partnership with Indian country
By Barack Obama
Story Published: Oct 24, 2008, Indian Country Today (perspectives)
For 20 months now, Iíve traveled this country, often talking about
how the needs of the American people are going unmet by Washington.
And the truth is, few have been ignored by Washington for as long as
American Indians. Too often, Washington pays lip service to working
with tribes while taking a one-size-fits-all approach with tribal
communities across the nation.
That will change if I am honored to serve as president of the United
My American Indian policy begins with creating a bond between an
Obama administration and the tribal nations all across this country.
We need more than just a government-to-government relationship; we
need a nation-to-nation relationship, and I will make sure that
tribal nations have a voice in the White House.
Iíll appoint an American Indian policy adviser to my senior White
House staff to work with tribes, and host an annual summit at the
White House with tribal leaders to come up with an agenda that works
for tribal communities. Thatís how weíll make sure you have a seat
at the table when important decisions are being made about your
lives, about your nations and about your people. Thatíll be a
priority when I am president.
Hereís what else weíre going to do. Weíre going to end nearly a
century of mismanagement of the Indian trusts. Weíre going to work
together to settle unresolved cases, figure out how the trusts ought
to operate and make sure that theyíre being managed responsibly Ė
today, tomorrow and always.
We need more than just a government-to-government
relationship; we need a nation-to-nation relationship, and I will
make sure that tribal nations have a voice in the White House.
Now, I understand the tragic history between the United States and
tribal nations. Our government hasnít always been honest and
truthful in our dealings. And weíve got to acknowledge that if weíre
going to move forward in a fair and honest way.
Indian nations have never asked much of the United States Ė only for
what was promised by the treaty obligations made to their forebears.
So let me be absolutely clear Ė I believe treaty commitments are
paramount law, and I will fulfill those commitments as president of
the United States.
That means working with tribal governments to ensure that all
American Indians receive affordable, accessible health care
services. Thatís why Iíve cosponsored the Indian Health Care
Improvement Act in the U.S. Senate, and thatís why Iíve fought to
ensure full funding of the IHS so that it has the resources it
It also means guaranteeing a world-class education for all our
children. Iíll work with tribal nations to reform No Child Left
Behind and create opportunities for tribal citizens to become
teachers so you can be free to educate your children the way you
know best. Weíll increase funding for tribal colleges. And I will
make Native language preservation and education a priority.
To give families in our tribal communities every chance to succeed
in a 21st century economy, I will cut taxes for 95 percent of all
workers, invest in job training and small business development, and
put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads, schools and
And I will never forget the service and sacrifice that generations
of American Indians have given to this country. We have to keep our
sacred trust with Indian veterans by making sure that no veteran
falls into homelessness, and that all our veterans get the benefits
and support they have earned.
Let me just close by saying this. I was born to a teenage mother. My
father left when I was 2 years old, so I never knew him well. I was
raised in Hawaii by a single mother and my grandparents, and we
didnít have a lot of money Ė we even turned to food stamps at one
point just to get by.
Where I grew up, there werenít many black families. So I know what
it feels like to be viewed as an outsider. I know what itís like to
not always have been respected or to have been ignored. I know what
itís like to struggle.
Every president is shaped by his own experience. These have been
mine. And so I want you to know that I will never forget you. The
American Indians I have met across this country will be on my mind
each day that I am in the White House. You deserve a president who
is committed to being a full partner with you; to respecting you,
honoring you and working with you every day. That is the commitment
I will make to you as president of the United States.