WASHINGTON (AP) — Tribes want the federal government to work with them to strengthen and modernize their ability to self-govern, saying the best solutions for Native American life comes from the tribes themselves, the president of the National Congress of American Indians said Thursday.
"At every level of government, more and more leaders are seeing that the path to a brighter future for America runs through Indian Country," said Brian Cladoosby in his 2016 State of the Indian Nations address. "Imagine how much further we will go, as the next class of American legislators and policymakers further strengthen tribal self-determination."
Cladoosby said decades of self-determination have turned some things around for Native Americans, pointing to successes in schools and tribal economies. However, he says antiqued laws and regulations need to be updated to continue the forward movement.
"We need to replace antiquated laws and regulations with policies that trust and empower tribes to govern," he said. "We need a relationship based not on paternalism and control, but on deference and support; a partnership where tribes continue to meet their own challenges and chart their own path forward."
In exchange for land, the federal government promised things like health care, education, social services and public safety in perpetuity for members of federally recognized tribes. Those vows generally are born out of treaties. The U.S. negotiated more than 400 treaties with tribes, most of which were ratified by the Senate.
Cladoosby invited presidential candidates to come out to Indian Country to see the successes they have achieved and to plan for their relationship after President Barack Obama leaves office.
"See for yourself, tribal nations are building brighter futures for their citizens and all Americans," he said. "While Indian Country is still recovering from generations of damaging policies, more than four decades of tribal self-determination have launched our resurgence. Today, tribal nations are innovating and leading the way."
The National Congress calls itself the oldest and largest American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country.