National Congress of American Indians set for winter conference

National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby delivered the State of Indian Nations in Washington, D.C., on January 22.

Hundreds of tribal leaders are in Washington, D.C., this week for the National Congress of American Indians winter session.

The conference kicked off at the Capital Hilton today with several meetings on specialized topics, including tribal jurisdiction over non-Indian domestic violence offenders, contract support costs in self-determination contracts and marijuana in Indian Country. But the main event starts tomorrow as tribal leaders hear from top Obama administration officials and key members of Congress.

Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, will address NCAI tomorrow morning. So will Yvette Roubideaux, the former head of the Indian Health Service who is now serving in an adviser position because she has not been confirmed by the Senate.

Also on Tuesday's agenda are three Cabinet secretaries: Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, Maria Contreras-Sweet of the Small Business Administration and Gina McCarthy of the Environmental Protection Agency. All have spoken before NCAI in the past.

Tribal leaders will hear from Capitol Hill as well. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee; Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota), the co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus; and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California), the Democratic leader in the House are on the schedule.

Wednesday will include updates from the National Indian Education Association, the Tribal Supreme Court Project, the status of the Carcieri land-into-trust fix and implementation of the tribal provisions of the Violence Against Women Act.

Michael Connor, the deputy secretary at the Interior Department, is also on Wednesday's agenda. So is freshman Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana), who appears to be the only Republican lawmaker who will speak at NCAI.

Wednesday concludes with the 17th Annual Leadership Awards Banquet. This year's honorees follow:
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-California), who helped pass the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act last year.
• Jodi Gillette, the Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs at the White House.
• Robert Burnette, a former executive director of NCAI.
• Suzan Shown Harjo, the activist who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year.
• the National Criminal Justice Association, an organization that has worked with NCAI on tribal justice issues

The conference wraps up Thursday with some additional meetings and consultation sessions with federal agencies, including the Bureau of Indian Education. For more details about the session, including agendas, visit

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