Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

November 26, 2011

Obama's nearly-secret meeting with Native American reps this week

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
President Obama's meeting with a select group of Native
American leaders at the White House in 2010, prior to the
full conference held in the Interior building,
was not made public ahead of time last year.

Update: Monday:
The White House said Obama
is not expected to attend Wed. and Thurs.
listening sessions at the White House. Obama
will make "remarks" on Friday at the Interior
Building,  the White House said.
See update at Censored News;

The White House Tribal Nations Conference is on Friday, Dec. 2, at the Interior building. The big question is why the secrecy about which Native American leaders will be attending the regional meetings, actually held at the White House, and who those leaders will be meeting with, on Wednesday and Thursday.

Those regional Native American leaders will meet at the White House prior to the meeting over at the Interior building on Friday, Dec. 2. Native American leaders from all 565 federally-recognized Indian Nations have been invited to attend the Friday session.

The White House announced those invitation-only meetings to be held on Wednesday and Thursday, but did not name the regional representatives, or explain how they are being selected. Censored News is awaiting a response from both the White House and the National Congress of American Indians, after requesting this information.

According to one invitation obtained by Censored News, this year Native American leaders actually invited to the White House for regional meetings are invited to meet with President Obama's "senior" officials, and not specifically Obama.

Once again this year, the White House Tribal Nations Conference is being held at the Interior building and not at the White House. Native American leaders were told that only one representative can be sent from each Indian Nation and no help is available for travel.

John Kane, Mohawk, said those "leaders" attending are "BIA puppets," and nothing meaningful will come out of this event.

"This is such a farce. If the entire six hour event was about direct access with the president, it would work out to less than 40 seconds per 'tribal leader.' Most of these guys are such figure heads and BIA puppets that their biggest concern will be to get their pictures taken. Nothing meaningful could possibly come from such an event."

"Ninety-five percent of the Native people in the room will be left out, if there are any 'discussions' at all," Kane said.

Alex White Plume, Lakota on Pine Ridge in South Dakota, also points out that the voices of the people at home are never heard.

"Obama is meeting with the tribal councils. They represent the modern colonized form of government. The real Lakota are home and never get heard. Our issue of Treaty violation is never bought up. This all sounds good, except it does not represent the Treaty Lakota."

Last year, there was no advance notice that President Obama had selected a small group of chairpersons from Indian Nations for a private meeting, before the conference at the White House. The meeting, shown in this photo above, was made public after it was held. Native leaders attending the White House invitation-only session said they were each given one minute to speak, and Obama was given eight minutes to respond to the group.

The majority of Native American leaders invited to the private White House meeting with Obama last year were from Indian Nations with oil and gas drilling, coal mining and power plants. Those have resulted in widespread devastation of the land, poisoning of the air and pollution of the aquifers and rivers in Indian country.

Besides the environmental damage, the result has been widespread health problems for American Indians. Those invited included Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Chairman Tex Hall from North Dakota, and Ute Mountain Ute Chairman Gary Hayes from Utah. Navajo President Joe Shirley was there, from the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation has three coal-fired power plants in the Four Corners region and hundreds of oil and gas wells.

The Navajo Nation and Crow Nation were both represented at the White House last year, two of the many Indian Nations in the west where the federal and state governments are seizing Indian water rights by way of legal maneuvers.

Three years ago, at the first White House Tribal Nations Conference, President Obama was criticized for showing a lack of respect to Native American leaders. In the initial announcement, Obama first invited and welcomed all Native American leaders to come to the White House. Then, however, Obama changed the meeting place to the Interior building.

The question remains: Didn't Obama realize in the beginning that there are 565 Indian Nations?

Obama further insulted Native American leaders in 2009 and 2010 by failing to greet and shake the hands of Native American leaders, as a show of respect for the arrival of leaders of sovereign nations. Obama did not host a reception to greet the leaders. Instead, Obama made a speech at the Interior building, responded to questions, and left the conference.

Before the White House Tribal Nations Conference began that first year in 2009, Native leaders stood in long lines in the cold outside the Interior building, waiting to get inside.

Already this year, Native Americans are asking: Who are the regional representatives in the select groups invited to the White House? How were they chosen? Why hasn't all of this been made public?

The meeting is costly to attend for each individual Indian Nation, which must provide for its own travel, hotels and meals, etc. If all 565 Indian Nations attend, those costs could easily total over $1 million.

Further, Native Americans want to know from both Obama and their own leaders if this meeting is just for the purpose of political grandstanding and photo ops, or if it will result in real change for Indian country.

White House Tribal Nations Conference Schedule:
Invitation-only sessions at the White House:
Wednesday, November 30
White House Briefings and Listening Sessions with Tribal Leaders by Region
Eisenhower Executive Office Building by White House Invitation Only
12:30‐2:00 Representatives from the Eastern, Eastern Oklahoma, Southern Plains, Great Plains, Midwest and Rocky Mountain Regions
3:00‐4:30 Representatives from the Pacific and Northwest Regions
More details posted at:
Thursday, December 1
White House Briefings and Listening Sessions with Tribal Leaders by Region
Eisenhower Executive Office Building by White House Invitation Only
9:30‐11:00 Representatives from the Southwest, Navajo and Western Regions
3:30‐5:00 Representatives from the Alaska Region

See full schedule at:
Read more: Kimberly Teehee is the White House Domestic Policy Council Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs.

White House meeting with Obama, photo 2010: Earl J. Barbry, Sr., Chairman, Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana; Cedric Black Eagle, Chairman, Crow Nation; Brian Cladoosby, Chairman, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community; Karen Diver, Chairwoman, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa; Brenda Edwards, Chairperson, Caddo Nation; Tex G. Hall, Chairman, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation: Three Affiliated Tribes; Gary Hayes, Chairman, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe; John Red Eagle, Principal Chief, Osage Nation; Joe Shirley, Jr. , President, Navajo Nation; Robert H. Smith, Chairman, Pala Band of Mission Indians; Edward K. Thomas, President, Tlingit Haida Central Council; Mervin Wright, Jr., Chairman, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe of Nevada

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