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NCAI 04 Wrapup: Day 3

The 61st annual National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is underway in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, this week. Here's a wrapup of some of the events that took place on Day 3 of NCAI.

Treaties Not Diabetes
It was Health and Fitness Day at NCAI as attendees got updates on the Indian Health Service, the National Boys and Girls Club for Native Youth and the Just Move It campaign against diabetes.

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota) also gave a brief speech on increasing political activity among Native Americans. He criticized a huge tax bill recently passed by Congress as a "windfall" for corporate America. "Tribal America was ignored," he said.

The main event, though, was a walk and rally promoting healthy lifestyles. Hundreds of people listened to Mitchell Cypress, chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, describe how he confronted his health problems 10 years ago after being diagnosed with diabetes.

"I was in denial," he said.

Cypress said his life was in danger unless he changed his ways. He now works out two to three times a week and has dropped his weight dramatically. Photos of Cypress before and after he began his new regimen were shown to the crowd. The results were apparent.

Cypress joked that he was so overweight that "the only thing missing from the [before] picture was the 'Goodyear blimp.'"

Notah Begay III, a Navajo/Pueblo golfer from New Mexico, said Native people need to become more active even though it can be difficult to make lifestyle changes. "It doesn't just happen when it's convenient," he said.

"I'm committed to turning back the wheels of diabetes," he said.

Hundreds took the words "Just Move It" to heart and participated in a two-mile walk in the Florida heat. Some, like Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe of Washington, ran the distance.

Many others, including Tex Hall, president of NCAI, and Ernie Stevens, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, walked the full distance to show their commitment to health and wellness. "Healthy is hot!" and "Treaties Not Diabetes!" some chanted.

Leftover from Day 1: Repatriation
On Monday, Rosita Worl, an Alaska Native and acting chair of NCAI's Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act commission, gave an update on NAGPRA issues on the federal level. She said tribes have been "frustrated" with the slow pace of the federal government.

But she said recent actions could help turn things around. She said Interior Secretary Gale Norton finally acted to fill three positions on the NAGPRA review committee that handles disputes over remains and artifacts. The committee plans to meet more often by phone, she said.

Worl welcomed the appointment of a new national NAGPRA manager at the National Park Service. Sherry Hutt, a former tribal and state judge, is considered an authority on repatriation law.

More information on the NAGPRA program and the review committee can be found at

Looking Ahead
Today is reserved for issue updates on a wide range of topics, from health to the Tribal Sovereignty Protection Initiative. Phil Fontaine, the elected chief of Canada's Assembly of First Nations, and Ruben Barreles, director of intergovernmental affairs for the White House, will speak.

Tonight, the NCAI banquet will honor the retiring Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado), a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana. Northern Cheyenne President Geri Small is scheduled to attend the banquet.

Relevant Links:
National Congress of American Indians -