Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 4, 2012

The Uninvited: The White House Tribal Nations Conference

Obama met with a select group of Native American leaders
secretly before the official Native Nation Conference in
Dec. 2011. White House photo published after the meeting.

The Uninvited at the White House Tribal Nations Conference

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Dec. 5, 2012

Aljazeera counters the fantasy of the White House Tribal Nations Conference

Native Americans say President Obama’s meeting with Native Nations should be more than a superficial meeting for self-serving elected leaders engaged in paternalism.

Since Native American news is widely censored, distorted, ignored or romanticized, Censored News asked Native Americans what they would say to Obama today if given the opportunity.

Native Americans say the most critical issues are not just being ignored, but are systematic genocide.

In South Dakota, Lakota children are being seized by South Dakota Social Services in violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act. In North Dakota, the land, water and air is being poisoned and Native people killed by semi trucks, as tribal leaders agree to blood money for oil and gas drilling that has turned Native lands into disaster zones. In the Arctic, the fight to protect the caribou birthing grounds and Arctic Ocean continues, while the Obama and Congress push for more oil drilling in the pristine Arctic.

Grassroots Navajo and Hopi are fighting the secret water schemes underway by the US Interior and corrupt tribal leaders for the Lame Duck Congress, which was exposed in leaked e-mails. On western Navajoland, Navajos are fighting resort development and uranium mining in the Grand Canyon, which threatens sacred land and drinking water. Navajos on Black Mesa continue their decades old fight against Peabody Coal, which orchestrated the so-called Navajo-Hopi land dispute to clear Navajos from the land for coal mining. Navajos are also fighting the theft of Little Colorado River rights for the dirty coal fired power plant, the Navajo Generating Station.

On the US/Mexico border, O’odham battle every day the abuse, harassment and spying by US Border Patrol agents on O’odham land. O’odham say their own tribal government has been co-opted and is powerless to protect them. Homeland Security is now seizing land for new spy towers, and an encampment of Border Patrol agents and helicopters on O’odham land at Pisinemo.

Native Americans across Indian country are spending the little money they have to fight the Keystone XL tarsands pipeline. They are fighting the threat of the dirty crude oil poisoning their land and water, and the seizure of their land as is happening now in east Texas by the southern route of the pipeline promoted by Obama.

The Superficial White House Tribal Nations Conference

Although Obama originally announced the White House Tribal Nations Conference would be held at the White House, the location was quickly changed. It is actually held in the Interior building. While Obama initially engaged in a question and answer period with Native leaders at the first summit, last year he simply made brief remarks and left. Although initially Obama said it would be a day with tribal leadersa the White House, each year Obama has decreased his time and involvement. This year, Obama is slated to make closing remarks, prior to the conclusion at 3:30 pm EST.

Although the relationship between Native American Nations and the US is supposed to be a government-to-government relationship, the daylong summit has been held with US officials seated all in a row in front, staring down at Native leaders.

Native Americans are not happy with many of their own leaders either, pointing out that they spend their time “begging for money for jails,” trying to get Obama’s autograph, or using the day for photo ops.

Most criticisms from Native Americans center on the secret meetings Obama has with select Native American leaders before the official day begins. Native Americans have not been told how, or why, those Native leaders are selected for the secret session.

The travel, hotels, meals and rental cars are expensive. Native Americans say the estimated $1 million to $2 million in expenses could be better spent for food, clothing and housing for desperate Indian people in the US; better spent on the homeless, abused and neglected elderly, and women and children suffering from violence.
Instead of pandering at the lush Sheraton in Washington on Tuesday, Native Americans said their leaders should have been focused on those homeless, hungry and cold back home.
While some Indian Nations with casinos have benefited financially, others have not. Although the Tohono O’odham Nation has had a lucrative casino for a decade, the majority of O’odham live in desperate conditions, while millions of dollars flow in and out of the Desert Diamond Casino.

Instead of pandering and posturing, Native Americans expect their elected leaders to arise to protect the best interests of the people, and the land, air and water.

Although Bolivia President Evo Morales is leading a global movement for the protection of Mother Earth, and the defense of the Rights of Nature, most Native American leaders in the US have shunned involvement, and instead are promoting oil and gas drilling, coal mining, dirty coal fired power plants, carbon market scams, and destructive development.

The media, too, is to blame, for censoring vital information, the promotion of bogus US wars and drones for targeted assassinations, and the parrot-like mimicking of distracting political rhetoric.
The People Respond

Angela Davis, Navajo, is among the Navajos is among the Native Americans whose voice will not be heard today.

"I would ask him to veto the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act), include Indian women in the Violence Against Women Act, honor the Navajo/Hopi treaties that guarantee priority water rights, grant clemency to Leonard Peltier, and close Guantanamo Bay. I'd also like for him to lift the ban on Ethnic Studies and books in the Tuscon, Arizona, school district," Davis said.

Kristy Price said, "Instill accountablity to your government for all things. Listen to the people who know the land, for too long people of the world who are connected with the earth have been ignored and rejected with a result of chaos and damage to our natural and only home."
Native Americans are not the only ones questioning the genocide and the US lust for Native lands for mining.

Tamara' Rousseau said, “I would like to know how can the United States of America have the second poorest reservation nation in the western hemisphere after Haiti? How is that, and what is being done to improve living conditions for these people, or have they been forgotten? Except for taking the lands away after hundreds of years to mine what do "You" see happening to these American Nations ?”

Another Censored News reader, Alis, says Obama should be urged to grant clemency for Leonard Peltier, create debt forgiveness, and halt the pipelines. Along with courage, Alis says Obama should be given a back bone.

“Forgive all debt of the People, such as student loans, home loans, medical bills, all of it, let the People start fresh, and since he gave $16 trillion to the banksters, tell him to get it back. Stop all wars. Stop XL pipeline and Enbridge. Stop drones. Stop nuclear bomb building, stop uranium mining. Tell him to shred his executive order of March 16, 2012, tell him to make corporations clean up ALL corporate pollution, hell, stop REDD and stop our border killings.

 “Tell him to get politicians out of thinking they can dictate what my children learn, we can make our own curriculum. Tell him to stop all slow genocidal policies and laws. Tell him that Canada, the Crown and US government are on their last legs of corporate deals, move outta our way cuz this is La Gente's home. Tell him we won't give up our Water, Earth, Air, and Fire. Tell him, the Nations are United from north to south, east to west, and around the Sacred Hoop of Life. Tell him the time of warring and pillaging is over, Peace has no borders. And give him courage, a back bone, peace, love and good health to do what is right for the People.”

Still another reader, fighting against the secret deals targeting Navajo water rights, points out that Navajos don’t know what the Navajo president will say in Washington.

“We wanna know what T-rex is gonna say on behalf of Navajo.”

White House
On December 5, 2012, President Obama will host representatives invited from each of the 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes, and Alaska Native Villages, at the 2012 White House Tribal Nations Conference. Fulfilling a commitment to improve and expand dialog with Indian Country, the President has hosted a Tribal Nations Conference in each year of his Presidency to facilitate a lasting discussion between Tribal Leaders and Senior Administration Officials. The opening and closing sessions of the Conference will be available for live online viewing at and also at The expected agenda is as follows:
Opening Session, 9:00am – 10:30am EST
Secretary Ken Salazar, Department of the Interior
Secretary Arne Duncan, Department of Education
Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin, Department of the Treasury
Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank, Department of Commerce
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Department of Health and Human Services
Secretary Tom Vilsack, Department of Agriculture
Closing Session, 1:30pm – 3:30pm EST
Leaders of Each Tribal Leaders Breakout Session
Secretary Ray LaHood, Department of Transportation
Secretary Hilda Solis, Department of Labor
President Barack Obama

Check back for updates.


MARLYS said...

One of the first articles I've seen on this meeting. Also rare to point out the extremely poor governance practices of many tribal leaders. Many observe that those who go to DC for Native American positions are part of a small clique who do not welcome others with private sector experience which is so needed in the Native communities. thanks for article

Mastinch said...

Looks Like the Corp.UNITED STATES, Is Size'n up, leaders, and see who is going to go with the Agenda,But lets hope some of the leaders,keep there people in mind, that is the reason why they are choosen to lead?, they are suppopsed to be the "Door mat" for the people to walk on,Some take it the other way around and power/money gets to their heads.But, again more proof that a public and private sector exists.Its speculation to what is promised to "Them", and what they are willing to give to"Us!!"