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Obama says he would visit in summer

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Posted: Thursday, November 5, 2009 6:04 pm

An Alaska Native leader took the opportunity of meeting with President Barack Obama today to ask for additional federal help to combat a variety of problems.

Asked about visiting Alaska, Obama said he would love to, during the summer.

Here is part of the official transcript from Obama's meeting today with tribal leaders from across the country.


     Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  And thank you for fulfilling your commitment to meet with the tribes in the very first year of your administration.  We really appreciate it.  My name is Bill Martin.  I'm President of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, but today I represent all the Native peoples of Alaska.  I present to you our request for assistance.  

We ask that you strengthen and support our sovereignty for all Alaska tribes by supporting our fishing and subsistence rights; by providing equity and funding across all tribal governments; providing an infrastructure of basic services in our villages, of plumbing in town hall meetings, in roads, sewer, et cetera; provide adequate emergency response for suicide prevention and health care services.  Suicide is a very high rate in Alaska.  It's -- for all of Alaska, is twice the national average for natives.  It's five times the average.  And for young men between 15 and 27 it's 12 times the national average.  And it's a serious issue and we hope that we can be able to provide more funding to combat suicide.

     I'd like you to help us by providing opportunities to enhance education, cultural language teachings within our community.  Many Indians and Alaska natives live in third world countries.  There's a great poverty of unsustainable economies in Indian country.  There is a lack of capital.  

     Before the economic crisis, bank lending was very weak to non-existent for tribal businesses.  In similar conditions in underdeveloped countries, the United States offers effective programs to induce economic investments, two programs like the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank.  We ask that you commit to develop similar federally backed institutions designed specifically for tribes, Alaska natives, Alaska native corporations.  

     We ask for -- that you work with us to stop the disastrous erosion caused by global warming.  Many of our villages are ready to slide off into the waters of Alaska, and in some cases, there will be absolutely no hope, we will need to move many villages.  We ask you to ensure tribal and rural equity for Alaska tribes, meaning those that live in the urban areas and also in the rural areas; support Alaska tribes to promote self-determination for all of Alaska people; to help and promote public safety from child abuse, from spousal abuse. 

     And, finally, Mr. President, Alaska is a great land.  Were it superimposed on a map of the continental United States, it would stretch from Florida to California, from North Dakota to Texas.  And the people of Alaska are just as different as the differences in this whole country, but we stand united.  We stand united in the pursuit of happiness for our families, and to train them and bring them as we were brought up for hundreds and hundreds of years since time immemorial.  And we stand united in inviting you to visit this great land.  

     Every Alaska Native has a special place to go to get away from it all.  And if you ever decide to want to get away from it all, come see one of us.  (Laughter.)  We'll take you to that special place.  (Applause.) 

     THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  I often want to get away from it all.  (Laughter.)  So I'm very much looking forward to visiting Alaska.  Thank you for sharing that important information with us.  One thing I'd note that -- obviously you guys are going to be here all day, so some of these key written statements you're going to be able to present to not only the relevant White House staff, but also the secretaries that were -- that are going to be participating, as well as members of Congress who are participating.

     The only thing I do want to make sure you understand is when I do visit Alaska, it's going to be during the summer.  (Laughter.)  So I just wanted to be clear about that.

•At another point during the meeting, Caroline Cannon of Point Hope spoke about her desire that the Obama administration stop offshore drilling.

In response, Obama said:

"I  want you to know, just with respect to offshore drilling, Secretary Salazar is in the process of reviewing some of the directives that were issued under the previous administration.  And I am confident that as part of that overarching review, that consultation with potentially affected nations will be part of Ken's process."




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