NCAI President Jefferson Keel presents the State of Indian Nations Address

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February 15, 2018

Washington, D.C. – February 12, 2018 – Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) delivered the annual State of Indian Nations Address on February 12, 2018, from the Newseum in Washington, DC.

President Keel, who was elected recently to serve another two-year tenure, welcomed the audience and said, “The state of Indian Nations is Strong and Resilient and Everlasting. We were here before all others; we are still here; we will always be here.”

Keel outlined a clear plan and top-level priorities for Congress and the Administration that could garner bipartisanship support, including important provisions for tribal self-government in the FY 2018 and FY 2019 Omnibus Appropriations Bills, the Farm Bill, Infrastructure—Roads, Bridges, Schools, and Hospitals, buying American by buying Native American, and the Native Vote.

Keel placed special focus on enacting the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act—legislation that NIGA has championed and promoted in partnership with NCAI for many years. Recently, the House passed the TLSA by an overwhelming, bi-partisan majority.

Keel said, “We know something about governing. We were peoples before ‘We the People.’ Our proven ways of governing informed the governing approach forged by this country’s founders. On the 200th Anniversary of the Constitution, Congress acknowledged our Native American contributions to America’s foundation, declaring – and I quote “the Congress on the occasion of the two-hundredth anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution, acknowledges the contributions made by the Iroquois Confederacy and other Indian Nations to the formation and development of the United States.'”

Following NCAI President Keel’s address, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, (D-NM), who also serves as Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs provided the annual congressional remarks. Udall opened by saying, “As Vice Chairman, three core principles guide my Committee work: respecting tribal sovereignty, promoting tribal self-determination, and ensuring that meaningful government-to-government consultation happens when federal action affects Indian Country. When I prepare legislation that affects Indian Country, I work to stay true to these principles. This means acknowledging that tribal sovereignty is written into the Constitution, reflected in treaties, and codified in federal law, listening to, consulting, and engaging tribes whenever federal legislation affects your interests and making sure that tribes retain the authority to make decisions for themselves.”

National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., joined other tribal and Native organizational leaders in support of the NCAI address. Each year, the President of the National Congress of American Indians presents the State of Indian Nations address to members of Congress, government officials, tribal leaders and citizens, and the American public. Delivered during the week that the President of the United States delivers the State of the Union, the State of Indian Nations is a speech that shares the positive and future-oriented vision of tribal nations. The address outlines the goals of tribal leaders, the opportunities for success and advancement of Native peoples, and priorities to advance our nation-to-nation relationship with the United States.

After the remarks, Chairman Stevens said, “It is an honor to stand with the National Congress of American Indians and it is especially empowering to support my great friend and colleague President Jefferson Keel. The State of Indian Nations Address represents the unity of Indian country as we fight for our rights in Washington, D.C.”

NIGA will join NCAI this week at their annual Executive Winter Session at the Capital Hilton, which includes a three-day agenda of the informational session, consultations and hill visits with the 115th Congress and presidential administration representatives.

President Keel and Senator Udall’s Written Remarks