Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) and Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-04), co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus, released a joint statement after President Obama issued an executive order to establish the White House Council on Native American Affairs. According to the order announced on Wednesday, this new council comes with the mission "to promote and sustain prosperous and resilient Native American tribal governments."
"There is a great sense of pride that comes with being Native American," said Cole. "At an early age, I remember my mother instilling in me the importance of our Chickasaw heritage, and I have always carried that with me. While Oklahoma celebrates our especially-rich Indian heritage statewide, tribes are not always recognized for their unique perspective and ideas at the national level.
"As we continue to face difficult economic and social decisions in our country's political future, I applaud President Obama's decision to give Native Americans a direct voice and work to build a positive, sustainable relationship with tribal governments. He has recognized the important contributions both tribe members and their governments can offer the entire country but also the need to protect tribal sovereignty. Our nation will certainly be better because of this new council."
McCollum added, "President Obama is to be commended for recognizing the critical importance of a coordinated federal approach to engaging with tribal nations and Native Americans. This special recognition of tribal sovereignty by the White House will give Indian issues a higher profile and will hopefully put greater focus on providing better services and getting results for Indian families. At a time when sequestration is inflicting devastating harm throughout Indian Country, this Council will have an immediate opportunity to engage tribal leaders and stakeholders to responsibly meet federal trust obligations."