The Tribal Nation´s Conference hosted by President Barack Obama in Washington D.C. this past November was a historic gathering for Indian Country and allowed the President´s cabinet to speak directly with the Indian leaders present.
The heads of federal agencies affirmed to a crowd of over 400 representatives of Indian Country of their commitment to Indian Country. The head of the U.S. Commerce Department, Secretary Gary Locke, told the gathering that his Senior Advisor for Native American Affairs Don Chapman II was his point person regarding Indian Affairs.
¨I want to let you know that I have one person in the Department of Commerce that I count on and who has absolute direct access to my office, to me, anytime, on any issue and that´s our senior advisor for Native American affairs Don Chapman. Stand up. He´s with the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut,¨ U.S. Commerce Secretary Locke told the audience.
¨We need to do better, we need to do more. We´re absolutely committed as part of the economic recovery of this nation to make sure that that recovery, the prosperity of America includes tribal lands and tribal people,¨ Locke added.
Commerce Secretary Locke is a former governor of the state of Washington and was accustomed to dealing with the 26 federally recognized tribes in that state. ¨I really believe and respect the sovereignty of the tribes all across America.¨
President Obama campaigned on a pledge to uphold a ¨nation-to-nation¨ relationship with tribes, not just a ¨government-to-government¨ relationship.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who co-hosted the event, told the audience that ¨self-determination, sovereignty, self-government, empowerment, and self-reliance are not abstract concepts; they are the tools that enable Indian country to shape its own destiny. Our role, as an administration, is to help you fulfill your vision for your nations; to help your communities achieve their promise; to help your cultures flourish.¨
Chapman was recently appointed to lead the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of Native American Business Development. The senior advisor´s office is in Washington, D.C., and the office´s broad function includes serving as the primary interface with all tribes and other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Housing and Urban Development, concerning business development and trade promotion for Indians. The office also leads the way on international import-export and tourism development on behalf of Indian Country and the Commerce Department.
Chapman is the U.S. Commerce Department´s first senior advisor on Native American Affairs, charged with implementing the President´s executive order 13175 which requires federal departments, agencies, and bureaus to create an office and policies on tribal consultation.
Chapman´s father, Don Chapman, is a former treasurer of the Mohegan Tribal Council.
Chapman will continue serving as a guest speaker and lecturer at Indian Country business outreach seminars.
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