Barack Obama, who mentioned American Indians in his victory speech
Tuesday night, likely will bring positive changes to the U.S. Department
of Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, tribal leaders said
election of the nation's first African American president, the mantra
of change he brings to office and a fresh set of eyes looking at
problems facing Indian Country have excited many tribal leaders,
said Osage Nation Principal Chief Jim Gray.
every issue under the sun that I think is open for discussion at
this point," Gray said. "It's rare to be able to see such a sea
change like what we saw last night happen."
election will affect the understanding of what the federal government
can and should do to address problems in Indian Country and beyond,
such as energy, the environment, health care, education, trust reform
and economic development, Gray said.
think this is an exciting time for tribal leaders around the country,"
he said. "They may have gotten cynical or lost interest in the hope
that the United States government could be a force for change in
a way that can really help people in a more healthy way. Obama represents
(Creek) Nation spokesman Thompson Gouge said his tribe is hoping
that American Indians will have a voice in the Obama administration.
Obama had not named members of his Cabinet and aides Wednesday,
some names have been floated about as the possible head of the Department
of Interior, which encompasses the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Politico, a political news outlet, reported that Rep. Jay Inslee,
D-Wash., and environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. might
be considered for secretary of the interior, while former Democratic
South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle, physician and Democratic National
Committee Chairman Howard Dean, and former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber
could be tapped to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, which includes Indian Health Services.
Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith said appointments to the posts
are extremely important for Indian Country and that he hopes to
see Obama issue a policy statement that would reflect his campaign
statements to guide the people he appoints.
of which party won, it was historic," Smith said. "It gives us a
chance to grow as a nation and focus on issues that are in common
rather than issues that divide."
May, Obama broke with members of the Congression- al Black Caucus
when he stated that courts should decide the Cherokee Nation's freedmen
issue, rather than have Congress write legislation that would penalize
the tribe for not accepting the descendents of freedmen — former
slaves of the Cherokees — into the tribe. His position was almost
identical to arguments the tribe was making on the issue.
us, the principle we believe that Sen. Obama adheres to is to respect
tribal sovereignty and let us exercise self-governance," Smith said.
"If his appointments adhere to the same principles, we should be
in pretty good shape."