On Monday, September 26, the White House was the site for the eighth annual White House Tribal Nations Conference. It was also the second White House Tribal Youth Gathering. The national convening is the result of a 2008 campaign promise by then candidate-Obama who made the commitment to hold regular convening’s when he made a campaign stop at the Crow Nation in Montana.
One hundred Native American youth took part in just the second-ever youth event designed to provide a dialogue with various Washington officials including the Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Department of Education Secretary John King, and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. The youth joined elected leaders of the 567 federally recognized tribes for nation-to-nation dialogues with members of the President’s Cabinet.
The youth gathering is a part of the Administration’s Gen-I Initiative or “Generation Indigenous” an Obama Administration initiative to improve the lives of Native youth through new investments and increased engagement. The Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) at the Aspen Institute , which participated in the White House meeting and led by former Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) expressed support saying, “We are very excited and pleased that the Administration continues to extend these opportunities to Native youth. They all have powerful, inspiring stories to share and we will continue to uplift them as part of our work at CNAY.”
As part of the White House Conference, the Administration listed several initiatives that have been announced this year or have taken place in recent years. Some of the more recent actions include:
- Public Safety and Justice Subgroup of WHCNAA, formed on September 6, the Department of Justice and Interior are co-chairing a Public Safety & Justice Subgroup in response to concerns about the need to focus on unique legal and public safety concerns facing Indian Country
- The United States, Canada, and Mexico Commit to Improve Coordination on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls. On June 29, 2016 the President traveled to Ottawa, Canada for the North American Leaders’ Summit. The three presidents made a tri-lateral commitment to address the scourge of violence against indigenous women and girls that exists across North America.
- Enhancing Support for Consistent Climate Change Education for Native Youth. In 2015 and 2016, the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), National Park Service, hosted the first two Tribal Youth Climate Leadership Congress (Congress) to promote youth engagement and positive community action for climate resilience for 89 native youth. The Congress is supported partly through the BIA’s Tribal Climate Resilience Program to support Tribal youth working on climate change research.
- Supporting Education and Community Development through Tribal Colleges and Universities. In 2016, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture invested $13.9 million in 34 Tribal Land Grant Institutions. The new awards support institutional research, education, and extension outreach capacity through projects that address student educational needs, provide positive tribal youth development experiences, and help to solve other locally identified tribal community, reservation, and regional development issues.