The California Valley Miwok Tribe (located at 10601 N. Escondido PL, Stockton, CA, as listed in the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ BIA/DOI Spring 2011 Tribal Leaders Directory), a federally recognized tribe eligible to receive and distribute services from the federal government – on Friday, December 2nd, 2011, concluded the week’s activities in Washington, D.C., by attending the 2011 White House Tribal Nations Conference, held in the Sidney R. Yates Auditorium.
Registration began at 7:00 AM, but Chairperson Burley took the opportunity to register the previous day, when offered by the Department of the Interior. After going through all security checks, the tribal chairpeople and delegates in attendance were given prominent seating in the auditorium’s center aisles, directly facing guest speakers, with reporters and others attending directed to the side aisles. The opening session had a speaker panel which included Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, along with officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Management and Budget, and the Department of Health and Human Services.
When this concluded, attendees were directed to the various locations for what were termed, “break-out sessions”, where their pre-determined choice of issues were to be discussed with administration officials handling the specific topics. CVMT chose the session titled, “Strengthening the Government-to-Government Relationship.” In this session, the attending government officials asked the tribes to take the podium to express what their needs and concerns were, giving each tribe equal time to bring forth their most urgent issues. Chairperson Silvia Burley of the California Valley Miwok Tribe was the last speaker in this session and was well able to articulate the current issues that continue to obstruct the Tribe’s ability to address the needs of its members and of its sovereignty that this administration has so rightfully helped to strengthen.
The panel of administration officials were seen to listen attentively with noticeable concern and upon conclusion of the Chairperson’s oratory, the auditorium broke out into unanimous applause, after which one official even approached Chairperson Burley in response to what she had said. With break-out sessions ended, everyone was directed back into the Sidney R. Yates Auditorium for the conclusion of the day’s events, which included a recap by administration officials of the unmet needs and concerns from the various break-out sessions and how the administration will prioritize to better address those issues. Shortly thereafter, President of the United States, Barack H. Obama, was introduced and took the podium – giving highlights of the achievements that have been made under his administration in addressing the needs of this nation’s native peoples; also introducing his adoptive family, Sonny and Mary Blackeagle of the Crow Nation, whom gave a closing prayer to the day’s events, followed by the retiring of the Colorguard.
The feeling by all whom attended and the California Valley Miwok Tribe is best summed up here as one reporter quoted Stacy Bohlen, Executive Director of the National Indian Health Board, as saying, “I think we have made strides under the Obama administration, the likes of which have not been seen in 30 years.” Well in the case of the California Valley Miwok Tribe, we can go a step further – we can say that this administration has made a greater positive impact upon our tribe in righting all of the wrongs previously wrought against us and in protecting and strengthening our sovereign right to govern ourselves more so than in our entire previous tribal history, before the taking of office of our current United States President, Mr. Barack H. Obama.
At this time, the California Valley Miwok Tribe would also like to extend its heartfelt thanks to the Fort Sill Apache Tribe, its tribal council and Chairman Jeff Haozous, for their gracious assistance in funding this trip in its entirety.
1. 2011 White House Tribal Nations Conference Agenda
2. 2011 Nat’l Native American Heritage Month Presidential Proclamation
3. President Obama’s White House Tribal Nations Conference Speech, December 2nd, 2011