Derek Bailey, the chairman of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, was among dozens of tribal leaders who attended listening sessions at the White House on Monday.
Bailey, who has served on the tribal council since 2004 and as chairman since 2008, said the sessions were just the beginning of an ongoing dialog with the Obama administration. He hailed White House officials for inviting tribes to Washington, D.C.
“Across the table, we saw indigenous faces, those that are from Indian Country, that understand when we speak as leaders from our own upbringing,” Bailey said in an interview yesterday. He called the meeting “inspiring.”
Jodi Gillette (Standing Rock Sioux) and Kim Teehee (Cherokee) from the White House, along with Indian Health Service Director Yvette Roubideaux (Rosebud Sioux) and Del Laverdure (Crow) of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, participated in the session that Bailey attended. He said they paid close attention as tribes shared a wide range of concerns.
“Never once did i feel that they were not interested listeners,” Bailey said. “They really were engaged.”
During the session, Bailey talked about regional approaches to providing health care, improving access and use of technology and appointing Native Americans to federal judgeships. He also spoke of the need to have a better understanding of the federal-tribal relationship.
“That is part of the consultative process,” he said. “The more of a cornerstone you have of tribal understanding, the better footed you’ll be.”
Bailey, who met with President Barack Obama in Michigan in July, said he has already noticed a change in atmosphere with the new administration. “From my understanding, there’s a huge turnaround, a very noticeable turnaround, and very much appreciated,” he said of the developing relationship.
During the campaign, Obama promised to hold an annual summit with tribes. The issue was raised yesterday but the White House has not said when the first meeting will occur.