"National Congress of American Indians president Joe Garcia, of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, demonstrated that Indians are not afraid to reach for high symbolism to get their share of the economic and political pie. Before beginning his annual State of Indian Nations speech last week at the National Museum of the American Indian, Garcia helped bless and present the famous Pueblo Lincoln canes, kissing them reverently, as they were handed to him by Marcelino Aquino, the current governor of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo of New Mexico. Presented to the 19 Pueblos in 1863 by then President Abraham Lincoln, the silver headed canes represent the United States' recognition of the Pueblos' land rights, granted to them by the Spanish in 1659. The canes are still an important symbol of office in the pueblos, handed down to each succeeding governor.
In this case, they were a potent, almost stern reminder to President Obama, who often cites Lincoln as an inspiration, that tribal leaders expect him to walk his talk in dealings with Indian country.
Although not mentioned in Garcia’s speech, trust reform is also a key issue for Native Americans, the NCAI’s 111th Congress Draft Legislative Priorities listing it as a first-year priority for the new Congress.
Trust reform was also on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s mind when he addressed the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs last week. Keenly aware that his two predecessors were found to have been in contempt of court in the Cobell case, he acknowledged American Indians' frustration with the government’s handling of the case. Salazar indicated his desire to bring the litigation to a conclusion but did not mention a timetable.
Salazar’s priority list for Indian country was amazingly similar to Garcia's. During his first meeting with the Committee on Indian Affairs, Salazar promised that American Indians would have a place at the table in the Obama administration. In response to committee chairman Bryon Dorgan’s frustration with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which has not had a permanent leader in three years, Salazar assured him that a candidate has been chosen and is in the vetting process."
Get the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: Native American Leaders and Salazar Agree on Priorities
(The Daily Yonder 2/16)
More Native picks expected at Obama's Interior
Garcia hopeful in last State of Indian Nations
(2/11)Jodi Rave: NCAI president calls for economic
(2/11) NYT Blog: A plea to remember the Indian nations