Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians, joined members of Congress, Cabinet officials, Justices of the Supreme Court, former presidents, governors, other dignitaries, and civil rights organization leaders on the inaugural platform to usher in President Barack Obama – the 44th President of the United States.
Sitting among the officials was just another aspect of the American Indian presence throughout the weekend events. Keel was in attendance at St. John’s Church with the first family and guests of the administration for prayer services near the White House before taking his place for the President’s swearing in for a second term.
“Tribal nations were represented throughout the Presidential Inauguration events this weekend and I was proud to have represented Native people in honoring the President as he begins his second term. From the morning prayer to his ceremonial swearing in to the Inaugural Parade, tribal nations were present, a reminder that as sovereign nations, we are also active members of the American family of governments,” Keel said in a statement from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian where NCAI held a tribal nations strategy session the day after the Inauguration.
The Inauguration included Native people in many ways. The official Inaugural Parade featured six Native groups including; Kamehameha Schools Warrior Marching Band, Honolulu, Hawaii; Native American Women Warriors, Pueblo West, Colorado; Navajo Nation Band, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah; The Tribes of North Dakota, North Dakota; Utuqqagmiut Dancers, Wainwright, Alaska; and the Wind River Dancers, Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming. The American Indian Society held its Inaugural Pow wow and Ball over the weekend and on Monday NMAI held the first Native Nations Inaugural Ball.
The planning session on January 22 titled “Setting Our Nation-To-Nation Agenda for the Next Four Years: Tribal Nations, Congress, and the Obama Administration” pointed out the need to move immediately on key priorities through Obama’s second term. Members of the Obama Administration joined tribal leaders who were in D.C. for the weekend events in forming a unified path, they included presentations by Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs; Jodi Gillette, the White House Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs; and Charlie Galbraith, the White House Associate Director from the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public engagement.
“Although Native Americans or tribes weren’t mentioned specifically in the President’s inaugural speech, tribal nations are a priority of this Administration and it was reflected in our prominence in the weekend’s events,” continued Keel.
“We’re focused on major issues in the near term and in the years to come. Immediately we are continuing our advocacy efforts to call on members of Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In addition, fixing land into trust challenges presented by the Supreme Court’s Carcieri decision remains at the top of our priority list. In the months ahead we’ll monitor the government’s federal trust responsibility to uphold the tribal budget and focus on the implementation of major legislation like the Affordable Care Act and the Tribal Law & Order Act. While there is so much more to do, we’re very optimistic as NCAI, tribal nations, and advocates begin our work in partnership with the 113th Congress and the Obama Administration,” Keel concluded.
Keel will deliver the 2013 State of Indian Nations on February 14 at 10:30 a.m. from the Newseum in Washington, D.C. – following President Obama’s State of the Union address. It will be streamed at: www.NCAI.org/live and on television and followed by a Congressional Response and a Question & Answer session.