Posts Tagged ‘President Barack Obama’

It’s Presidents’ Day in the midst of a presidential election year and ICTMN has a host of information for readers to ponder.

First, ICTMN’s Rob Capricciso has an enlightening story on how some tribal members and officials are giving President Barack Obama their nod – through cash contributions – of approval for a second term.

A recent “Native-specific” campaign fundraiser may have brought in more than $2 million to the president.

The D.C. event ended with Obama saying: “And if you stick with me, I promise you guys I’m going to be sticking with you.”

    In a sign of growing tribal political clout, 70 Indian officials attended a first-ever Native-specific campaign fund-raiser with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. on January 27.

    “I believe that one day we’re going to be able to look back on these years and say this was a turning point in nation-to-nation relations,” Obama said in a speech at the event. “That this was [a] turning point when the nations all across the country recognized that they were full partners, treated with dignity and respect and consultation; that this wasn’t just a side note on a White House agenda, but this was part and parcel of our broader agenda to make sure that everybody has opportunity.”

Also very interesting from ICTMN, a look at the “Best Presidents” for Indian Country. Capricciso ranks eight presidents going back to Ulysses S. Grant.

As for the fundraising event in Washington, D.C. last month, Obama stayed at the event for about 30 minutes.

    In a telling sign about the current state of American campaign finance, tickets for this event started at $15,000. For $35,800, donors got dinner and a reception with Obama, where they got their picture taken with him. Under campaign finance law, $35,800 was the maximum allowable donation. All proceeds were said to go to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint committee authorized by Obama for America and the DNC.

    If each tribal donor contributed the maximum amount, the president made $2.5 million from an event he attended. . .

Jenna Cederberg

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Mark Trahant

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 recent book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.

Canada just finished its national elections and the governing Conservative Party expanded its majority in parliament. Last week Prime Minister Stephen Harper also announced the historic appointment of two Native Canadians to that country’s cabinet.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo said it was the first time the cabinet would include both an Inuit member and a First Nations member, returning Health Minister Leona Aqlukkaq and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue.

This Canadian record-breaker is worth thinking about in the United States. There is a deep pool of Native American talent already working at federal agencies such as Bureau of Indian Affairs or the Indian Health Service, so it’s time to see the promotion of an American Indian or Alaska Native to the post of Surgeon General, as a member of the Federal Communications Commission, or better yet, to run another cabinet agency? (We’ll save the “who” on this list for another day.)

But will President Obama even have a second term? And will Indian Country be as excited about Obama in 2012 and it was in 2008?

It’s way too early in the process to answer the first question. We don’t even know yet which of the Republican challengers is the strongest contender making it hard to compare philosophy, record and approach to governing. And, answering the second question is also complicated. Many in Indian Country saw the last election in terms of immediate change. Some are disappointed because President Obama didn’t do this or that. But the U.S. government is slow. Real change needs to be a sustained effort over time. The president has done a solid job working with tribal leaders on core issues, ranging from consultation to protecting the budget from sharp congressional cuts. And the idea that U.S. policy could be worse – far worse, at that – is not a message that excites voters.

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From Indian Country Today’s Rob Capriccioso:

WASHINGTON – Lawyers for the Indian plaintiffs in the Cobell settlement have taken to court to argue that the many millions they are scheduled to receive is too little, but they’ll take it if they can get it.

The settlement, which provides $1.5 billion to individual Indians to resolve the Interior Department’s mismanagement of their royalties for decades, outlines a cap of nearly $100 million to settle lawyers’ fees. It was negotiated by the Obama administration, and must be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan to become reality.

Some Indians with a stake in the case have argued that the amount set aside for attorneys is far too great, especially considering that many class members – those who actually have suffered due to Interior’s negligence – would receive less than $2,000 under the plan.

But, according to court papers filed Dec. 14, the $100 million amount is less than half of what plaintiffs’ lawyers think they would be due under a previously planned arrangement.

“Class counsel have undertaken 15 years of highly contentious and difficult litigation against defendants, including an extraordinary 12 month legislative approval process,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote. “In framing and prosecuting this case, they undertook substantial risk, litigated novel procedural, jurisdictional and substantive legal issues, and navigated through a series of unique appellate [decisions].”

In court papers, the lawyers said “fair compensation” would be much closer to $223 million – which would equate to a major chunk of the settlement, leaving far less for Indian beneficiaries.

The number represents the compensation from a contingency fee arrangement the plaintiffs’ lawyers planned before the agreement with the Obama administration was announced in December 2009.

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Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant

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.

President Barack Obama set a high standard for tribal-federal relations last year. “Today’s summit is not lip service,” he said at the summit. “We’re not going to go through the motions and pay tribute to one another, and then furl up the flags and go our separate ways. Today’s sessions are part of a lasting conversation that’s crucial to our shared future.”

That lasting conversation is continuing as promised. It’s remarkable enough for a president and cabinet officers to meet with tribal leaders once during an administration – but this second round means that the standard is now an annual event.

So what should we be saying about our shared future?

I’d use this as an opportunity to prepare for the coming financial storm – serious and long-term budget cuts that are coming from Congress – as a way to reconfigure federal services to Indian Country.

Take Medicaid and Children’s health programs. One of the best ideas coming out of the health care reform process is a feasibility study exploring the treatment of the Navajo Nation as a state. In tough budget times this is huge because state governments want to limit enrollment in Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance to save money. But eligible American Indian and Alaska Natives do not cost the states money – it’s a 100 percent federal match. By moving the administration to the Navajo Nation, it makes it much more likely that eligible patients will be enrolled in Medicaid or Children’s health adding critical revenue to the Indian health system.

The Navajo Nation feasibility project is only step one. This should be the beginning of a process that singles out other tribes, or regional associations, into administrative units that could manage Medicaid programs without a state roll. Or as I have put it before, treat Indian Country as a 51st state.

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President Barack Obama will meet with tribal leaders for a second annual tribal summit on Dec. 16 in Washington, D.C.

Indian Country Today reports that the summit will allow direct interaction with the president and his representatives. It’s a part of the administrations “commitment to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship with Indian country,” a White House representative said.

The first summit a year ago was well received and generated positive feedback from many Native American leaders.

This year’s White House Tribal Nations Conference is again anticipated to continue to strengthen lines of communication and clearly define paths to progress on tough issues facing Indian Country.

    “With the announcement of the second Tribal Nations Summit today, the Obama administration reaffirmed that tribal governments are equal members in the family of American governments,” said Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians. “The federal trust relationship between the U.S. government and tribal nations is a non-partisan relationship. Our meetings with the executive branch have a long term focus of creating healthier and stronger tribal nations, to strengthen the entire nation.”

But added Kimberly Teehee, senior policy adviser for Native American Affairs:

    “To bring real change to tribal nations, we must continue to work together, on a nation-to-nation basis, in order to realize a future where Native people live long and healthy lives in safe communities, where they are able to pursue economic self-sufficiency, and where their children and grandchildren can have an equal opportunity at pursuing the American dream. We will continue to look to the wisdom and experience of tribal leaders to inform our policy agenda.”

Jenna Cederberg

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Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant

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.

The election is over. Now what? What are the next steps when it comes to health care reform? Just what did the people say Nov. 2?

As you would expect there is no agreed answers. Republicans say this election was about health care. Tea party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S. C., said on NBC’s Meet the Press this weekend. “We have to stop the funding of Obamacare and over the next two years show the American people what the real options are to improve the system we have now.”

But President Barack Obama, in his news conference said, “I think we’d be misreading the election if we thought that the American people want to see us for the next two years relitigate arguments that we had over the last two years.”

The polls are interesting. The Kaiser Family Foundation surveyed the surveys. “Over the course of the past month, at least eight well-respected polls have asked Americans whether they support the idea of repealing health reform, and” Kaiser reports, “responses have been all over the map, ranging from a high of 51 percent in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll to a low of 26 percent in our September Kaiser Health Tracking survey. Why the wide range? After a close look at the data collected below, our take is that question wording is driving the differences. At the same time, recent polling suggests that for at least some Americans, a vote for repeal means a vote to eliminate certain provisions of the health reform law while also keeping many of its benefits, rather than representing a desire to overturn the law completely.”

But the political divide remains stark. So we are going to (as the president puts it) relitigate the health care law.

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Election day is done and there’s been a shift in the direction Washington may take. The Dems fell in many situations. But here’s a report from the Great Falls Tribune recapping what many Native leaders are calling progress made a year after Democratic President Barack Obama called a Native American summit where he instructed federal agencies to work more closely with tribes on a number of wide-reaching policies and programs. A top Native American Affairs adviser tells Tribune reporter Ledyard King the president is committed to continuing the “regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration” with tribes.

    That dialogue, fostered by a president who eagerly sought out the Native American vote in 2008, helped ensure that programs specifically tailored for Native Americans were included in the sweeping health care reform bill Congress passed in March. It helped propel final passage in July of a long-awaited Tribal Law and Order Act that will expand tribal authority and federal assistance on reservations wracked by crime. And it helped push the administration to settle an 11-year-old class-action lawsuit, known as the Keepseagle case, in October, so that thousands of Native American farmers and ranchers who were improperly denied access to government aid for years can begin filing for federal compensation.

    “This is like night and day,” said Democratic State Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation.

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President Barack Obama talks about the need to reduce crime in American Indian communities as he prepares to sign the Tribal Law and Order Act during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House today. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Barack Obama talks about the need to reduce crime in American Indian communities as he prepares to sign the Tribal Law and Order Act during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House today. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Here’s the full story from the Associated Press:

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — President Barack Obama has signed a bill he says will address the unique public safety challenges facing American Indian tribes.

Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act on Thursday.

The measure provides for the appointment of special U.S. attorneys to ensure violent crimes in tribal communities are prosecuted. It also revamps training for reservation police, expands the sentencing authority of tribal courts from one to three years, addresses jurisdictional issues and improves the collection and reporting of Indian crime data.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, who authored the bill, says millions of American Indians have lived far too long with unacceptable levels of violent crime.

Tribes hailed the signing as a reaffirmation of the federal government’s trust responsibility to ensure their communities are safe.

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Mark Trahant is a Kaiser Media Fellow examining the Indian Health Service and its relevance to the national health care reform debate. He is a member of Idaho’s Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and writes from Fort Hall, Idaho. Comment at His new book is “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.

(Material for this column was originally published in December and March.)

Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant

Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said: “If you’ve been in government a long time, as I have been, then the most exciting thing you encounter in government is competence. Why is this exciting? Because it’s rare.” When I read the quote, even today, I can hear the late New York senator’s voice booming, his last word full with extra punctuation.

Today, I’m excited for the government. Health care reform should bring nutrition to a starving Indian health system. And, if the next test for health care reform is execution, then the government might be on the right course. President Barack Obama used his authority to give Dr. Donald Berwick a recess appointment to head the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

This is a choice that exceeds Moynihan’s rareness of competency. Berwick represents the ideal, the one person you think could help the government, the people and the medical profession come together around the idea of excellent health care. Last December, at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement conference I watched hundreds of professionals cheer on Berwick as they would a rock star. This is a doctor who’s willing to talk about what’s really important to people. “Health care has no intrinsic value at all. None, health does. Joy does. Peace does,” he said in December. “The best hospital bed is empty. The best CT scan is the one we don’t need. The best doctor’s visit is the one we don’t need.”

Imagine that. Doctors we don’t need.

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Here’s the entire story from the Associated Press:

Elouise Cobell in Washington, D.C., last December, when the settlement was announced. Congressional approval has proved elusive. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Elouise Cobell in Washington, D.C., last December, when the settlement was announced. Congressional approval has proved elusive. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. Senate has rejected a $3.4 billion government settlement with American Indians that had been added to a much larger war-funding bill.

The Senate passed the almost $60 billion bill funding President Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan late Thursday — but not before stripping out the settlement and $20 billion in other domestic spending approved by the House.

The Senate’s approval would have given the Obama administration the authority to settle a class-action lawsuit filed in 1996 by Elouise Cobell of Browning, Mont.

Between 300,000 and 500,000 Native Americans claim the Interior Department mismanaged billions of dollars held in trust by the government.

The House attached the settlement to the war-funding bill earlier this month.

Thursday’s vote marks the second time the settlement has failed to pass the Senate. It was originally included in the Democrats’ jobs-agenda bill that was caught in a filibuster last month.

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