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State of Indian Nations 2013 | National Congress of American Indians

February 14, 2013

2/14/13 | Delivered by President Jefferson Keel (Chickasaw Nation)

The Annual State of Indian Nations speech by the President of the National Congress of American Indians is always a ray of hope in a new year; fraught with promise. It’s a late winter event that signals the hope of spring. This year was no exception and did not disappoint. 

The event always follows the State of the Nation by the President, by a few days. This year, I was not able to attend, as in years past. NCAI also streams it live and provides a link to a webcast for those who want to view it later. However, the energy in the room (the Neweum is where they host it) is always exciting and adds to the feel of the event.

As always, Jacqueline Johnson-Pata, NCAI’s Executive Director, provided a great contextual set up and introduction for the President. This year is the last year in office for President Jefferson Keel of the Chickasaw Nation, and he gave a memorable speech packed with facts, statistics and good quotes that were frequently retweeted in the side conversation many of us were a part of while watching the live stream.

Keel framed the speech by saying that “sovereignty is how we’ll implement the three goals of securing our communities, our nations and our future.” There were a number of important topics discussed within this framework in the 30 minute speech, including: a call to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act with the expanded Tribal provisions, a call for meaningful immigration reform (as Keel said, “we know a bit about immigration,” which drew laughs), Cobell Settlement, Carcieri Fix, energy, fair and equitable tax solutions for Indian country, unemployment, entrepreneurship, and the trust requirement, among others. The takeaway was that Tribal-centric solutions drive economic growth for Indian country and that sovereignty is critical.

Keel asked that the Federal government recognize that “[Tribal Nations] are not a line item, to hold us harmless in sequester and to keep promises already made.” Following the speech, the President took questions from the audience, including via social media. I tweeted the following question, “What role does nation building play as an exercise of sovereignty?” President Keel responded stating, “It is critical to understand Sovereignty and that exercising sovereignty allows us [Native Nations] to develop our natural, human, and cultural resources with children being our most important resource of all.”

NCAI released a report to accompany the State of Indian Nations, titled Securing Our Futures.

NCAI also released the Fiscal Year 2014 Indian Country Budget: Supporting Tribal Economic Security and Prosperity in January 2013.

Link to watch replay:

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