Publsihed July 2, 2016
SPOKANE—The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) held its 2016 Mid Year Conference and Marketplace in Spokane, Washington this past week. The theme of this year’s midyear conference was “Changing Climates, Inspiring Hope.” Over 1,000 tribal leaders and officials came to Spokane from throughout Indian Country to the conference.
Native News Online was in Spokane to cover the conference. Here are five takeaways from the conference:
Number 1 – Native Youth
Just as in the sports arena, NCAI continues to see how imperative it is to grow the “farm team” of future tribal leaders. Several tribes from Indian Country sent youth to see first- hand how tribal leaders engage with one another, governmental officials and tribal business leaders at national Native conferences.
By week’s end, the NCAI Youth Commission launched a #CultureMatters social media campaign on YouTube.
Number 2 – Native Vote
Since NCAI is a non-partisan organization, the organization does not endorse candidates. However, the organizations see the importance of American Indians and Alaska Natives going to the polls to vote on election day.
During his president’s report during on the opening assembly, NCAI President Cladoosby stated NCAI can assemble a list of both Democrats and Republicans who have worked hard on behalf of American Indian and Alaska Native issues.
During the conference, there were various opportunities to meet with Native candidates running for office this year.
Number 3 – Fee-to-Trust Land Made Easier
Assistant Secretary of the Interior – Indian Affairs Larry Roberts announced on Thursday that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has improved its Fee-to-Trust Handbook to reduce the processing time for requests from federally recognized tribes to have land taken into trust for their benefit and proclamations that declare the lands are part of their tribal reservations. Under the revised guidance, these requests may now be submitted simultaneously.
Number 4 – Transition to New Administration
With under seven months left of the Obama administration, tribal leaders discussed the desire to keep the momentum going that began under President Barack Obama. In particular, the Obama administration is the first presidential administration in American history to host a White House tribal nations conference every year.
Further, President Obama created the White House Council of Native American Affairs, which is chaired by Sally Jewell, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Secretary Jewell addressed the NCAI on Wednesday.
“We have done a lot, but we have a lot to do,” Secretary told the conference for the remaining days of the Obama administration.
“We need to prepare the next lesson plans for the next administration that will take over.”
Number 5 – Tribal Enrollment Question on 2020 Census Opposed
The U.S. Census Bureau is in the process of developing its 2020 Census form. John H. Thompson, director of the U.S. Census Bureau addressed on Thursday. He said the Census Bureau has conducted eight tribal consultations to date.
He said they heard there are three challenges in Indian Country relating to the census: access, geography and language barriers.
Currently, the Census Bureau is considering having a question of tribal enrollment in the 2020 Census and including the question in the American Community Survey (ACS). NCAI passed a resolution opposing the use of a question on tribal enrollment in the 2020 Census or in Census Bureau surveys, such as ACS.
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