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Remarks at White House Tribal Nations Conference


Thursday, November 5, 2009



Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Remarks at White House Tribal Nations Conference
Washington, D.C.

Good morning, thank you all for coming to Washington and for being here today.

It’s great to be here with so many of my colleagues from the administration, and with Congressman Rahall.

I know there are a lot of very important issues to discuss.

I want to hear from all of you about things that the Commerce Department can start to do, or can do more of, to better include Indian communities in our programs.

And I hope you’ll remember this:

When I was governor of Washington State, I had the chance to engage some of you here on many of the same topics that are being discussed at this conference—issues ranging from fishing rights, to land and historic preservation, to economic development to expansion of broadband infrastructure.

And that’s why I’m pleased to announce that Don Chapman, of the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut, will become my Senior Advisor on Native American Affairs.

Don has more than 10 years of senior executive experience at tribally-owned businesses, and he’ll coordinate the Commerce Department’s business and economic development efforts that affect Native Americans.

My goal as the Secretary of Commerce is to expand upon the relationship that already exists between the Department and Tribal Nations.

In 2009, Commerce awarded nearly $16 million in grants and contracts to tribes or Native American-owned businesses. Seven million dollars of that was under the Recovery Act. In 2010 and beyond, I want to grow these numbers.

Last year, Commerce helped nearly 500 Native American-owned businesses get contracts worth more than $93 million, and helped secure an additional $54 million in loans and financing to support business activities of Native American-owned firms. This number needs to grow as well.

I want to work with Tribal Leaders to ensure they have access to the $4.7 billion in funding Commerce will disburse to help underserved communities increase access to high-speed Internet.

And I want to grow the relationship that already exists between Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and tribes across the country, in connection with resources management and the protection of fishing and gathering rights.

We have a strong foundation for cooperation, but we need to keep building.

Thank you. I look forward to your input and comments about these critical issues.