NCAI leader hails historic time for Indian Country
Jefferson Keel, the newly elected president of the National Congress of American Indians, welcomed the proclamation of November as Native American Heritage Month.

Keel, a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, said this year's celebration is marked by two major events: the debut of the White House Tribal Nations Conference and the opening of the Embassy of Tribal Nations.

“This year the celebration of Native American Heritage Month comes at an historic time for Indian Country as the Obama Administration holds its first annual Tribal Nations Conference and the Embassy of Tribal Nations opens its doors in Washington, D.C," said Keel.. "Just as Indian delegations have been coming to Washington for well over a century, modern tribal leaders will descend on the nation’s capitol to ensure consultation regarding federal policy implementation that will benefit generations of American Indians and Alaska Natives."

"One of our first diplomatic relations with the U.S. was when the Iroquois aligned with some of the first European settlers. The Iroquois' constitution -- called the Great Law of Peace -- guaranteed freedom of religion and expression and other rights later embraced in the U.S. Constitution. Native Americans played a crucial role in the formation of this country," Keel added. "Today we continue to contribute as modern, thriving nations that are essential to the framework of American society."

Keel continued: "Through our strong connections with the land and all living things, tribal nations know firsthand the effects of climate change on the environment. We hold the promise of alternative energy development that would benefit all Americans. The integration of our cultural practices into our education curricula is groundbreaking. We’ve developed innovative practices for telemedicine services for our most remote villages. From cultural tourism to modern manufacturing facilities, we know what it takes to bring sound economic development opportunities to our communities. Native men and women have steadfastly fought and died defending this country as the highest serving minority group in the U.S. armed forces."

"As strong, independent Indigenous nations, we will proudly continue to contribute to the social, political and cultural make up of this great country," he said.

Keel was elected president of NCAI during the organization's 66th annual conference last month.

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