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Natives ask Obama for economic development help

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  • Natives ask Obama for economic development help

    Natives ask Obama for economic development help
    By Jodi Rave
    Lee Enterprises - 20 January 2009
    Rapid City Journal | News ยป Local | Natives ask Obama for economic development help

    WASHINGTON -- South Dakota tribal leaders are among those submitting economic stimulus plans to Barack Obama's transition team, as Native Americans from around the country gather here to celebrate the inauguration of a man they say will give Native issues the attention they deserve.

    The plans outline the needs of reservation residents and businesses with detailed "shovel-ready" ideas that would boost faltering tribal economies.

    "It's up to us as tribal leaders to push that," said Rodney Bordeaux, chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. He traveled to the capital for the occasion. "We heard some good comments from the transition team. We have a seat at the table, but we have to make sure we continue to be there. If we don't, they could easily forget us."

    Some tribes submitted stimulus plans to Obama to address basic infrastructure needs in their communities, such as new health care buildings, better roads and improved water supply systems.

    Tribal Chairman Joseph Brings Plenty of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, also in the capital this week, submitted a nearly $70 million stimulus plan. Even though his community desperately needs jobs, they are asking for something more important. They need clean, uncontaminated water.

    "You have a lot of heavy metals being dumped into the water, and it's coming right into where our intake is," he said. "We have a lot of rare cancers on our reservation. We need to have our water project funded."

    Native members of the Obama transition team were on hand Monday at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City Hotel to address economic development backlogs. They told the tribal leaders to maintain contact with the Obama administration.

    The forum on economic development came amid an all-day meeting of 400 tribal leaders from around the country at the Hyatt. Thousands of Native people from across the nation are in the capital to celebrate Obama's inauguration today.

    "We've had more discussions and more face-to-face efforts with him and his administration-to-be than we've had with all the presidents in the course of the years that I remember," said Joe Garcia, president of the National Congress of American Indians.

    Garcia and Native Americans around the country believe, for the first time in centuries, they will not be ignored by the federal government.

    On Monday, the American Indian Society of Washington, D.C., welcomed people who had arrived for the inauguration.

    Eleven tribes will be participating in Tuesday's inaugural parade. A powwow and American Indian Inaugural Ball will follow the swearing-in ceremony.

    "We just got through eight years in the wilderness, of basically not being on the radar of this Bush administration," said Chairman Mark McCarro of the Pechanga Band in California. "In Indian Country, there's a real urgency, collectively, to see real positive concrete change. Tomorrow represents a lot of hope and opportunity that's long overdue in Indian Country."

    "Be good, be kind, help each other."
    "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

    --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)

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