2006 STATE of the
Indian Nations ADDRESS
National Congress of American Indians, Joe Garcia, President
behalf of the sovereign Indian nations within the United States of
America and the National Congress of American Indians, I welcome you to
the fourth annual State of the Indian Nations address. I welcome tribal
leaders, Administration officials, members of the House and Senate,
national Indian organizations, friends and family who have gathered here
in Washington D.C.; and the many who are listening across the country.
The state of the Indian Nations today is strong. Over the past year,
many of our people have withstood devastation in the form of Hurricane
Katrina and Hurricane Rita, losing everything they had. Our prayers are
Many of our native brothers and sisters are wearing the uniform of the
U.S. Armed Forces today. They are fighting the War on Terror in
Afghanistan and Iraq, or are serving our country in other places here
and around the world. Our prayers are with them, too-and so is our
Strength, triumph over adversity, the will to succeed - the Indian
Nations stand strong today. We are growing more self-sufficient, more
economically developed, more politically active; and as always,
steadfastly committed to the stewardship and defense of our home, the
United States of America.
At the same time, this confidence is matched by an acute awareness of
our problems. We know that if you want change, you have to do the work
yourself; relying only on the others to the extent of their promised
The spiritual outlook of the Indian nations is found in The Four
Directions, each represented by a different color, a different animal
and a different meaning. Everything in the world comes from the four
directions-these four powers. And they must be in
The meaning of each direction varies among tribes, but consider the
tradition of the Pueblos. North is blue or green - conflict and tension.
West is yellow - and the condition of man - in darkness and in danger -
standing before the unknown. South is
red - peace, resolution and rest. East is white - victory, sunrise,
clarity. Man must turn to each of these four directions to solve a
Today I borrow from that tradition to describe the task before the
Indian Nations. We face four areas of great challenge. And we must meet
each of them in order to move our nation forward.
1: Public Safety;
Number 2: Healthcare;
Number 3: Education and the Economy; and
Number 4: The Trust Settlement.
these The Four Great Steps-the agenda for the Indian Nations. Just as
the Four Directions provide a map for the soul, The Four Great Steps
define the challenges we face as tribal governments-the needs we must
meet and overcome to improve the lives of those of us of the Indian
1: Law Enforcement
public safety. The problem, simply stated, is this: We have the will and
the abilities, but we lack the means. The inability of border tribes to
stem the flow of illegal aliens passing through their communities is a
profound problem. Some aliens may want no more than entry into our
country, but there are others who cross to engage in drug trafficking
and other crimes. The results for our communities are increased murder
rates, higher rates of theft, more rapes and beatings, and the fear
among many of even going out.
This is unacceptable. We want to implement a long-term solution to the
problem that is more than simply stopping those we can catch and send
back, and letting the rest get through.
We want to do more, but we do not have the means. We are largely on our
own because of limited financial assistance from the federal government.
The government's responsibility to us in this way is mandated, and we
are prepared to work with them. But they must give us the tools to do
so. According to the Justice Department, the typical Indian Country
police force has no more than three officers responsible for patrolling
an area the size of Delaware. So we must do more to protect our
We want to help in other ways, as well. In particular, we want to do
more to protect American Indian women, who suffer greatly from domestic
violence. Homicide is the third leading cause of death for Native women.
Seventy percent of American Indians who are the victims of violent
crimes are victimized by someone of a different race.
Methamphetamine is a poison taking Indian lives, destroying Indian
families, and razing entire communities. In 2005, Jesus Sagaste-Cruz was
convicted of conspiracy and distribution of methamphetamine. He knew
that enforcement was lax on tribal lands. And he figured he could use
that to his advantage. In his case, it did not work. But in too many
others, it does.
The remedy begins with more resources, but that is only part. It also
includes streamlining the system we use to get those resources.
On the matter of border control, federal policy requires tribal
governments to apply for Department of Homeland Security funding through
state and local governments. This does not work. I call for a direct
line between our tribes and Homeland Security in this matter.
For domestic violence, I am proud to say that President Bush and the
Congress have already taken action to help, with the recent
reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. We call upon Congress
to fully fund this life-saving legislation.
In the war against methamphetamine, the answer is numbers: We need more
officers to fight back.
Overall, we must have increased manpower, realistic funding, and
Second of the Steps is healthcare: Because of inferior healthcare, the
quality and length of life for American Indians falls well below the
rest of the U.S. American Indians have a life expectancy five years less
than the rest of the country.
A typical American Indian is 650 percent more likely to die from
tuberculosis, 420 percent more likely to die from diabetes, 280 percent
more likely to die in an accident, and 52 percent more likely to die
from pneumonia or influenza than the rest of the U.S. population.
Native American healthcare is often no more than emergency treatment,
which means that our people are getting care only when they can't wait
anymore. There's little preventive healthcare and little education for
Healthcare expenditures for Indian are less than half what America
spends for federal prisoners. Let me repeat that: Healthcare
expenditures for Indian are less than half what America spends for
And remember that there are real people behind these numbers. The Ute
Mountain Ute tribe in Towaoc, Colorado, recently lost three tribal
elders in a van accident because the only way these elders could get
dialysis was to drive two-and-a-half hours each way to the nearest
hospital with the right equipment. What they needed wasn't close enough.
Because of this, I call upon Congress and the President to uphold their
historic and contractual obligation by reauthorizing the tribally
proposed Indian Health Care Improvement Act during this session of
Congress. This legislation is no less than the framework for the Indian
healthcare system. It will bring our outdated and inadequate system into
the 21st Century - addressing mental health, substance abuse and youth
suicide, and support for attracting and retaining qualified healthcare
Basic things such as in-home healthcare are becoming commonplace. But
they are not yet a common part of the system of Indian healthcare. They
ought to be.
3: Education and the Economy
The third Great Step is education and the economy: As it now exists, the
Indian education system is inadequate to meet our children's needs. This
in turn drags down our economy, whose infrastructure already lags behind
the rest of the country.
Education, the skills and abilities that our children learn in school,
is the foundation of the economy. And the Indian education system is
Only half of Indian students complete high school. Only 13 percent of
American Indians hold bachelors or graduate degrees, less than half the
We know from academic studies that Indian children flourish when their
classroom experiences are built on our tradition, language and our
culture. The No Child Left Behind Act allows for this kind of education,
but the resources to actually make it possible have yet to be
The remedy, of course, is to fully fund this part of the No Child Left
Behind Act. I am confident that this culture-centered approach will work
because I have seen it work.
In 1994, the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative began connecting students
with elders in the community; and creating a passion for learning by
showing students how to explore science and history in light of their
It worked. Over a 10-year period, student performance went up. Test
scores improved and drop-out rates declined.
And this didn't require blue-ribbon panels or years of research. It
helped as soon as it was begun: turning the unique position of the
Indian Nations into an asset by making Indian children proud of where
they come from.
I call on Congress to appropriate the funds to complete, what is for
Indian Country, a part of the No Child Left Behind Act that we cannot
afford to miss.
Education is a pillar of the economy. Another pillar of the economy is
government. Just as state and municipal governments are obligated to
provide vital services and promote growth, so are tribal governments.
Though federal spending for Indians has lost ground compared with
spending for the U.S. population at large, tribal self-governance has
proved that federal investment in tribes pays off. Between 1990 and
2000, income rose by a third and the poverty rate declined by 7 percent.
And a Harvard study shows that these gains occur with or without gaming.
Tribal governments have worked hard to put laws in place that promote
economic activity and Indian reservations are the next great opportunity
for the American economy.
But this is only a beginning. Real per-capita income of Indians living
on reservations is still less than half of the national average.
Unemployment is still double what it is for the rest of the country. And
the poorest counties in the United States are on tribal lands. So we
still have yet to join the success of the rest of the nation.
Because of our often remote location relative to superior professional
services, it is crucial for us to join the telecommunications revolution
of distance learning, telemedicine, public safety, e-commerce, and
electronic government. Not enough Indians have access.
Housing conditions for many Indians have reached the crisis point. Four
in ten Indians are under-housed. To avoid going homeless, many are
forced to crowd several families into a single-family structure. I've
seen up to eighteen people stuffed into a three-bedroom house.
More than one in eight Indians lack access to safe drinking water. More
than one in twelve lack access to basic sanitation. This is humiliating,
degrading, and medically unconscionable. It is wrong, and it has to be
brought to an end.
We are sovereign, independent, self-sustaining nations. But as I have
noted before, our mandated relationship with the United States
Government puts us in a precarious position. Our success is dependent to
a large extent on the Governments' respect for tribal rights to
self-determination and self-sufficiency. NCAI's fiscal year 2007 Indian
Country Budget Request outlines some visions tribes have for meaningful
federal investment in Indian Country.
The success of Indian Country in self-governing and managing their
resources warrant continued federal investment in tribal
self-determination. And this does work.
Native Americans are becoming homeowners at an increasing rate, 39
percent more from 1997 to 2001. Last year, President Bush signed the
Energy Policy Act of 2005 to assist tribes in the development of energy.
I am grateful to the President for this support-because it supports our
cultural commitment to natural environmental harmony, and our belief
that we must be caretakers of the land we cherish. We look forward to
working with the Administration on the implementation of the law in the
4: The Trust Settlement
The fourth and final Step is the trust settlement: The fact that the
Cobell litigation remains unsettled impedes our progress with the
federal government on nearly all other issues.
This litigation has dragged on for ten years and recent decisions
indicate that it will be delayed many more years, with diminishing
chances of a favorable outcome. This litigation is diverting money from
other needs and creating an environment in the Administration that makes
it hard to move on to other issues.
The solution is straightforward: let's settle Cobell fairly and quickly,
and then let's move ahead. We want Congress to deal with this in good
faith and then allow us all to put it behind us. Whatever the settlement
turns out to be, the ongoing years of delay will cost millions in lost
opportunity. Let's move on.
As Indians, our lives are defined by our history and our rich cultures.
We believe in elevating virtue to a way of life. We believe in family,
tradition, and self- determination. Our tribes exist as nations with
sovereign and independent governments. And we are keenly aware of the
challenges we face in providing for our people.
I believe the way to meet those challenges is through these Four Great
Steps: Public Safety; Healthcare; our economy and infrastructure and the
education of our young people. And finally, the speedy achievement of a
reasonable trust settlement.
The state of the Indian Nations is strong. This is a plan for making it
stronger. And I am confident that this will happen.
Most of you here know that from where we are today, it is only a few
blocks to the newest memorial on the Mall, the National Museum of the
American Indian. The exhibits inside tell our story. But the Museum's
presence on the Mall itself, in the last unoccupied ground before the
Capitol, shows the world the unbreakable bond between the Indian Nations
and the United States of America.
Our fates are bound together. This is where we belong.
Just as the Four Directions show a way to live, these Four Great Steps
show a way to grow. I look forward to seeing this progress for the
benefit of us all.