President-elect Barack Obama
arrived in the nation's capitol on Sunday, as the Washington, D.C.,
Indian community prepared to celebrate the inauguration of the
The festivities start today, with a gourd dance
and a powwow at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City
in Arlington, Virginia.
The public is invited to both events, which have been organized
the American Indian Society of Washington.
The big celebration takes place tomorrow, after Obama is sworn in
as president. Upwards of 3,000 tickets have been sold to the
11th American Indian Inaugural Ball
, making it likely the
largest in the organization's history.
"It is an exciting time for us to celebrate the new administration and Indian Country’s sovereign relationship to
it," said Michael Nephew, a member of the Seneca Nation
New York who serves as president of AIS.
The ball features a star-studded lineup of entertainment,
representing tribes in the U.S. and .First Nations in Canada
Over a dozen performers, including
, Gary Farmer
and Joanne Shenandoah
, will take
the stage in a in a concert sponsored by
the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association
AIS is also honoring LaDonna Harris, a member of the Comanche
of Oklahoma, and Mitchell Bush, a member of the Onondaga
of New York, at the ball.
The two national Indian leaders will be presented with the Lifetime Legacy
The day after the inauguration, AIS continues a tradition with
the 11th American Indian Inaugural Brunch on Wednesday morning.
All events take place at the hotel in Arlington, where
tribal leaders are doing more than celebrating as they
prepare to do business with the new president.
Over 400 tribal representatives are attending a meeting
today to discuss their priorities for the new administration
and the 111th Congress. They got a head start with a speech
from Ken Salazar
, Obama's nominee for Secretary of
the Department of the Interior
"We have some great opportunities yet some major challenges ahead of us,"
said Salazar, a first-term Senator from Colorado.
"But we will only address those challenges through a spirit of consultation.
The Department of Interior will work hand-in-hand with Indian Country
to address the challenges of our time. We have to make sure that
Native American communities of the United States are never left
outside of the tent again."
Salazar went before the Senate for his confirmation hearing
last week and pledged to improve economic development on reservations and
Indian schools. Though he didn't provide a lot of details,
his presence at today's meeting was eagerly welcomed.
"What a way to start 2009 and a new relationship with the incoming
Obama administration," said Joe Garcia,
the president of the National Congress of
. "It is encouraging that Sen. Salazar is putting
Indian Country’s agenda at the top of his priority list before
he even takes the oath of office.”
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