Obama declares Native American Heritage Month
President Barack Obama has declared November as Native American Heritage Month.

Obama said American Indians and Alaska Natives have played a prominent role in the history of the U.S. He cited high rates of participation in the military and Native "inventors, entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders, and scholars."

"Our debt to our First Americans is immense, as is our responsibility to ensure their fair, equal treatment and honor the commitments we made to their forebears," Obama said.

Obama said his upcoming fiscal year 2010 budget includes $17 billion for programs at the Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other federal agencies. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allocated $3 billion for Indian Country.

"These programs will increase educational opportunities, address the scourge of alcohol abuse and domestic violence, promote economic development, and provide access to comprehensive, accessible, and affordable health care," Obama said. "While funding increases do not make up for past deficiencies, they do reflect our determination to honor tribal sovereignty and ensure continued progress on reservations across America."

This Thursday, Obama will host the first ever White House Tribal Nations Conference. "Native American voices have echoed through the mountains, valleys, and plains of our country for thousands of years, and it is now our time to listen," he said.

Relevant Documents:

Related Stories:
Tribal leaders head to DC for summit with Obama (11/2)