Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. Trahant’s new book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.By any objective measure Barack Obama has been the most engaged and effective president on American Indian issues since at least since Richard Nixon. You could even make the case that Obama is better than Nixon because there has been so much successful legislation and Executive Branch action in less than two years.
A quick review of the Obama record:
• A summit with elected tribal leaders where the president and cabinet members held a town hall. Immediately after the meeting the Office of Management and Budget was charged with the task of improving the government-to-government consultation process;
• Enactment of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act as a permanent statue;
• A significant number of key appointments of Native Americans at the White House, cabinet agencies, even the Interior Department’s chief legal counsel;
• Increased budgets at the Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs plus a sizeable slice – some $3 billion – of stimulus fund money that were directed at Indian Country.
I could go on and on with the real results from this administration. (If you need a contrast, remember the frozen glare of President Bush when I asked him about tribal sovereignty or what it was like when the entire budget for urban Indian health programs was to be “zeroed out.”)
As Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry EchoHawk said at Taos Pueblo this past weekend: The president has been communicating to Indian Country with his heart and soul. He quoted Candidate Obama saying: “I promise you, as long as I serve as President of the United States, you will not be forgotten.”
That promise has exceeded expectations. So with this kind of record you would think the election ahead would be exciting. Indian Country has a stake – a huge stake – in the success of President Obama and that means supporting and electing candidates that will back his agenda.
Indian Country ought to have the president’s back.
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