Native Leaders Speak to Washington

By Michelle Chen Nov 07, 2009

When it comes to upholding promises to native communities, Washington will never fully atone for its abysmal track record over the past few centuries. But on Friday, President Obama did at least make good on one pledge he made during his campaign: a summit with tribal leaders to start a national dialogue on the needs and entitlements of indigenous peoples. The Tribal Nations Conference didn’t lay out any policy changes, but Obama’s speech was a stirring acknowledgment of long-neglected social crises surrounding Indian country, including poverty, substandard living conditions, and political marginalization. The meeting mostly carried symbolic meaning for indigenous peoples long excluded from the corridors of power.