Obama: U.S. making progress on Native American issues

Kevin Freking
Associated Press

Washington — The U.S. has made significant progress improving conditions for Native Americans but has more work to do, President Barack Obama said Monday at the White House Tribal Nations Conference.

Obama cited the approval of clean energy projects, investments in high-speed internet access and protection of sacred lands through national monument designations as examples of how his administration has worked to help tribes.

“I’ve heard you. I have seen you. And I hope I’ve done right by you,” Obama told several hundred people attending the conference, primarily from the 567 federally recognized tribes that were invited to attend.

Obama started the annual conference and has hosted it each year of his presidency.

Before he spoke, Obama participated in a traditional honoring ceremony in which he donned a colorful robe and a conical hat. Obama didn’t keep the hat on for the entire ceremony, but described the ceremony as a moving reminder of “the great friendships that we’ve developed.”

Obama emphasized efforts he said were aimed at ensuring federal agencies work with tribes “sovereign to sovereign.” He said the creation of the White House Council of Native American Affairs brought about a permanent institution with a long-term, Cabinet-level focus on Indian country.