|November 1, 2012
President Obama has helped America’s First Peoples
By Dyani Bingham
Montana Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council
It is our pleasure and honor to endorse President Barack Obama for re-election to the Presidency of the United States of America.
President Obama has been a friend to the Indian Nations. He has a true understanding of the cultures and history of America’s First Peoples and his relationship was made even stronger when he was adopted into the Apsaalooke (Crow) Nation in 2008 and given the name, “One Who Helps People Throughout the Land.”
Barack Obama recognized, even as a Senator, that the needs of Tribes and American Indians have been ignored by Washington for too long. He vowed to improve the health care and education opportunities on reservations across the nation saying, “Our government has not always been honest or truthful in our deals.” President Barack Obama has lived up to his name.
One of the best known of the President’s accomplishments for Indian Peoples was to push through and settle the Indian Trust Settlement (Eloise Cobell Lawsuit) over mismanagement of trust funds and assets of Indian Lands. It was a $3.4 billion settlement for a lawsuit filed in 1996. The settlement, a top priority of President Obama from the time he was sworn into office, was signed by the President on Dec. 8, 2010.
The President signed into law the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which included more than $3 billion in direct funding for Indian Country that:
• Spurred job creation in Tribal communities
• Helped Tribal communities renovate schools on reservations
• Supported health facilities and policing services
• Improved housing and energy efficiency:
• The Obama Administration is also taking steps to provide the most significant and comprehensive reforms to Indian land leasing in 50 years.
• The administration is working to reform and streamline regulations on business leasing, residential leasing and renewable energy development on Indian trust land.
When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010, he permanently authorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act and made good on his word to work towards improving the gaping health care disparities faced by Native Americans.
By doing so, he assured that the Indian Health Care Improvement Act would have a permanent role in reducing the health care disparities in Indian Country. The act will provide greater access to behavioral health, hospice, assisted living, long-term, and home- and community-based care. Preventative care will also be more readily available and elders will have access to doctors and hospitals in their time of need.
The President is calling for changes to existing education laws so that funding for native language restoration and immersion programs will be available for schools.
Obama signed into law historic student loan reforms that better invest in our students and remove big banks as middlemen in the student-lending industry. This law also provided $300 million for Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities to strengthen and support these institutions.
The President signed an executive order to expand educational opportunities for all American Indian and Alaska Native students, including opportunities to learn their Native languages, cultures, and histories.
President Obama is committed to regular and meaningful engagement with Indian country, including unprecedented federal consultation with Tribal leaders.
• He has held an Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference every year since taking office, leading to greater consultation between Tribes and the federal government and helping shape policy priorities.
• Tribal communities have key personnel advising the President on policies affecting their communities.
• President Obama endorsed the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The President is working to restore Tribal Homelands. Through 2011, more than 157,000 acres of land has been taken into trust status on behalf of Indian Tribes - an increase of 130,000 acres from what was acquired between 2005 and 2008. Additionally, President Obama approved an unprecedented package of four water settlements benefiting the Crow Tribe in Montana and six other Tribes in Arizona and New Mexico.
We believe that President Barack Obama will continue to advocate both for the First Nations and First Peoples of Montana and Wyoming and all Americans across the United States. He has the full support of the Montana Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council.
Dyani Bingham is the Media Specialist/Special Project Coordinator/Child & Youth Health Projects with the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council and Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center in Billings.