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Blog Category: Tribal Nations Conference

Obama Administration Investment Promotes Job Growth and Mitigates Environmental Risk in Tribal Communities

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez Participates in the Third Tribal Nations Conference at the White House

Guest blog post by U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John R. Fernandez

This year, President Obama hosted the third White House Tribal Nations Conference to hear directly from tribal leaders about their priorities. I had the opportunity to address some of the representatives of federally recognized tribes during a series of briefings and listening sessions hosted by the White House.

The President is committed to strengthening the government-to-government relationship with Indian Country and partnering and investing to find solutions to complex issues and to win the future for Indian Country.

Environmental challenges are affecting tribal economies. The Obama administration has taken significant steps to mitigate environmental risks and strengthen the capacity of reservations to meet the training and economic needs of their communities.

Native Americans living on reservations experience higher incidences of environmentally-related health issues than other groups, including in the upper Missouri River basin. This includes 19 reservations in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, along the Missouri River system and its tributaries where minerals and wildlife are abundant both in water and on land. Unfortunately, as concerns about the environment have plagued these communities, the response has not been timely or meaningful. These are areas of the country where the norm is economic depression and generational unemployment. In some cases unemployment rates approach 90 percent. The impacts of environmental degradation have contributed to stagnant business growth in these rural communities and severely limited opportunities for workers.