Today, U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson delivered remarks  at 2012 Executive Council Winter Session of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the oldest and largest national representative of Tribal Nations in the United States. Bryson spoke about Commerce Department initiatives to promote exports, job creation and infrastructure in Indian Country.
This administration is proud to partner with NCAI in the effort to forge new links between government and Indian country on behalf of Native American communities. At the Commerce Department, we have a host of programs where Commerce and Native American communities are working together to bring jobs and opportunities to Indian country:
- The Minority Business Development Agency helps Native American-owned companies in growing their businesses. Over the past several decades, MBDA has worked with approximately 80 percent of the tribes and assisted over 25,000 Indian enterprises.
- The Commerce Department has the lead federal role in implementing the President’s National Export Initiative, which aims to double exports by Native Americans and all U.S. companies by the end of 2014. For example, we have partnered with the University of Washington to develop the global marketing capacity of Native American tribes with a focus on tribal forest operations.
- The Commerce Department is a lead agency in promoting the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, an unprecedented initiative to spur economic growth through public-private partnerships. The United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, North Dakota will receive $1.6 million grant over four years to implement the Upper Missouri Tribal Environment Risk Mitigation cluster, which includes about 20 tribes. The funds will be used to provide training and education for about 1,000 people, support over 100 environmental technician jobs, and create about 15 new businesses.
- Through our broadband grants investment program, we are working to increase access to high-speed Internet in Native American communities. Commerce awarded grants to five tribal authorities for infrastructure and public computer center projects, a subset of the more than 60 broadband projects that will directly benefit tribal communities. This includes funding to deploy broadband infrastructure in the Navajo Nation, in an area covering 15,000 square miles in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, where many residents lack even basic telephone service.
- As part of the 2010 Census, the “Indian Country Counts Census Campaign” helped educate American Indians and Alaska Natives on the importance of returning their census forms. Overall, 5.2 million people, or 1.7 percent of the U.S. population, identified themselves as American Indian and Alaska Native. This was 27 percent increase in tribal population over 2000.
We know that the federal government doesn’t have all the answers. But we also know that by working with people on the front lines, we can help identify what works and build on that.