This week marks the 6th annual White House Tribal Nations Conference in which President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other political powerhouses meet with leaders of the 566 federally recognized tribes from all over the U.S. While the council has in the past addressed important issues as upholding treaty and trust responsibilities, sovereignty and healthcare, this year’s conference looks to address the needs of youth in Indian country.
According to the Office of the Press Secretary, this year’s Conference builds on the President’s visit in June of this year to the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation. During his visit, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to education and economic development.
As part of the conference, the White House will release a new Native Youth Report which will address and explore the key issues affecting Native Youth while suggesting recommendations for “a path forward.” Additionally, 36 Native Youth Ambassadors will join tribal leaders during the breakout sessions and panel discussions.
President Obama is expected to announce the launch of Generation Indigenous (Gen I) “a Native youth initiative focused on removing the barriers that stand between Native youth and their opportunity to succeed.”
The initiative, which will be comprehensive and culturally appropriate – will assist in improving the lives of Native Youth through such programs as Native Youth Community Projects, a National Tribal Youth Network in partnership with the Center for Native American Youth, a Cabinet Native Youth Listening Tour (in which the President will hear directly from Native Youth) and the first ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering which seeks to engage hundreds of Native youth in a day-long event in the summer of 2015.
Supporting efforts from the Department of the Interior (DOI) to transform the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) that support tribal communities include the DOI’s issuance of $1.2 Million to six tribes to help establish tribally managed school systems, a DOI agreement to work with the National Park Service to expand access to STEM programs and efforts to preserve languages in the upcoming Native Language Summit of 2015.
Further topics and discussions will include the following:
—The Department of Labor’s (DOL), announcement that the agency will treat federally-recognized tribal governments the same way it treats state and local governments when determining eligibility for employment and training grants.
—The Federal Highway Administration’s awarding of $8.5 million this year in Tribal Transportation Program Safety Funds to 183 tribes for 195 projects
—$5.04 million from the Federal Transportation Authority for transit improvements.
—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) distribution of $29 million to initiate the construction of 77 wastewater infrastructure projects and $18 million for the construction of drinking water infrastructure projects for tribes to improve access to safe drinking water.
—In November, the Department of Justice (DOJ) disseminated a report titled Ending Violence So Children Can Thrive that outlines policy and practice recommendations on the issue of children’s exposure to violence in Indian country. The issue of Native Sexual assault will also be addressed.
—Expanding access to health care to include Medicare-like rates for IHS payments and a new streamlined process for those eligible for health services and exemptions through the Affordable care act.
—Improving Behavioral Health based on SAMHSA’s recent Native Youth Conference to improve the health and well-being of Native youth.
Other issues covered will include technical assistance for tribal renewable energy projects and advancing the government-to-government relationship by restoring tribal homelands in trust for tribes.