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Engaging Indian Country to Help Create Conditions for Economic Opportunity on Trust Lands

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Engaging Indian Country to Help Create Conditions for Economic Opportunity on Trust Lands

Guest blog post by Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development 

Traveling this week on my first official trip as Assistant Secretary for Economic Development, I was honored to participate in the National Congress of the American Indians mid-year conference “Claiming our Rights and Strengthening our Governance” in Anchorage, Alaska.
 
While there, I served on a panel with Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior, Kevin Gover, Director of the National Museum of the American Indian and former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, and James M. Olguin, Councilman, Southern Indian Tribe. We met with tribal leaders for a focused discussion on the importance of developing modern trust management systems and creating the conditions for economic growth on tribal trust lands. 
 
The Obama Administration has a long history of being actively engaged in helping tribal communities expand their economic footprint, and recent changes in federal laws and regulations have opened the door to development of tribal trust lands. As a critical part of our discussion, I explained how the U.S. Department of Commerce can work with Tribes to develop these lands and attract the private investment they need to create more jobs.
 
For nearly 50 years, the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration has partnered with Tribal communities throughout the United States to foster job creation, collaboration and regional innovation. In the last five years alone, EDA has awarded nearly $42 million in assistance to Indian tribes to help them plan and implement their bottom-up economic development strategies.
 
EDA provides partnership planning grants to native Tribes to help develop comprehensive economic development strategies (CEDS) that articulate and prioritize their strategic economic goals and then works with them to implement those plans. EDA can provide grants to address a broad array of needs from construction to non-construction, technical assistance, and revolving loan fund projects to help attract capital to Indian country.
 
On Friday, President Obama will visit the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in Cannonball, North Dakota, to discuss additional steps the Administration will take to support jobs, education, and self-determination in Indian Country. 
 
As the President said in an op-ed published in anticipation of his visit, “The history of the United States and tribal nations is filled with broken promises. But I believe that during my Administration, we’ve turned a corner together. We’re writing a new chapter in our history – one in which agreements are upheld, tribal sovereignty is respected, and every American Indian and Alaskan Native who works hard has the chance to get ahead. That’s the promise of the American Dream. And that’s what I’m working for every day – in every village, every city, every reservation – for every single American.”
 
Today, honoring the nation-to-nation relationship with Indian Country isn’t the exception; it’s the rule. 
 
The Department of Commerce will continue to build on our efforts in Indian Country. We are committed to assisting Tribal communities and Native American-owned businesses with economic development so they have the same opportunity as all Americans.

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