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Our Director Director's Blog

This week, I joined leaders from across the Federal government and more than 300 Tribal Nations for the 2013 White House Tribal Nations Conference. I welcomed the opportunity to co-moderate a session on reinforcing relationships between the Federal government and tribes.

President Obama has led historic levels of cooperation between tribal governments and the Federal government, including holding four White House Tribal Nations conferences. One of my top priorities is to improve the representation of people from all backgrounds and communities within the Federal government, especially Native Americans, and we’ve already made some progress together.

We’ve coordinated with the Society for American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE) to improve the representation of American Indians/Alaska Natives in the Federal workforce, from the Senior Executive Service to internship and recent graduate positions, including the Presidential Management Fellows. At the last two SAIGE Conferences we were able to provide SES preparation training, with the vision of helping to build a pipeline of American Indian/Alaska Native that leads to the SES. We’ve reached out to Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) to share information about the Pathways Program, which offers clear paths to Federal internships for students from high school through post-graduate school.

We’re making progress in healthcare, too. OPM enrolled employees of tribes and tribal organizations in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), made possible by the Affordable Care Act. There are currently 55 participating tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations from fifteen states that have enrolled approximately 10,000 employees in the FEHBP.

I’m pleased with these steps, but we have so much more to do. We want tribal leaders as our allies, to help us promote and champion public service. Together, we can build the diverse pipelines agencies need. We look forward to a strong partnership with tribes and tribal colleges as they develop a new generation of doctors, scientists, teachers, business owners, firefighters, judges and law enforcement professionals interested in serving tribal communities for many years to come.

On Wednesday at the Tribal Nations Conference, there were productive and exciting discussions on these topics and many more. I look forward to our chance to work together, learn from each other, and make progress in the coming months and years because there is so much that tribal communities have to bring to the table.

The President put it best in his remarks to the conference:

“For generations, these men and women have helped keep our covenant strong.  So now we’ve got to keep strong what they’ve built, for this and generations to come.  It falls to us to keep America the place where no matter where you come from, what you look like, you can always make it as long as you try, as long as you work hard.  And I know that that’s what -- all of you are working hard.  That’s what you represent as leaders of the communities that are represented here from coast to coast.  I want you to know that's what I’m working for.  That’s the partnership that I cherish, and I will cherish as long as I have the honor of serving as your President.”


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