Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Washington, DC
September 27, 2012

Thank you David. Good morning everyone. It is a pleasure to be here at the White House to participate on the panel for Global Business Opportunities and to further our commitments to the tribal communities and indigenous populations.

As a Representative of the United States and on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, I would like to thank the representatives of the private sector and other stakeholders for joining us here today. We are enthusiastic for your involvement in the White House Business Council Forum for Tribal Business Leaders.

I appreciate the opportunity today to discuss what the U.S. Department of State has done and is currently doing to engage Native American and indigenous individuals on a variety of international issues.

I would like to recognize the tribal leaders and representatives from across the continent for making the journey to Washington, D.C. for yesterday’s and today’s meetings. I know that we have among us today tribal chiefs, presidents, and CEO’s from various tribes, and I would like to take a moment to recognize you for the insightful and impactful input you have provided so far and will continue to bring to this ongoing discussion.

In 2010, I had the opportunity to work with Native American leaders and organizations as part of a consultation process leading to the United States changing its position on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Under the leadership of Secretary Clinton, and as part of the transition to 21st Century Statecraft, my office was tasked to work with tribal governments. In that capacity, my office served as a bridge between the U.S. Government and Tribal leaders during the collaborative review of the declaration.

The United States is home to over two million Native Americans, 565 federally recognized Native American Tribes, and other indigenous communities. U.S. support for the Declaration reflects our commitment to work with those tribes, individuals, and communities. Our challenge is to find ways to facilitate dialogues at the subnational level of engagement that will encourage strategic economic growth.

My office has led outreach efforts to engage tribal communities and indigenous people at the state and local level. We also have engaged tribal nations to create opportunities for economic growth and development. In addition, we have facilitated consultations and NGO meetings regarding the UN Declaration, and coordinated the Department of State’s implementation of Executive Order 13175 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights for Indigenous People.

We led the first U.S. government-to-government consultation with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), which was held in South Dakota in collaboration with U.S. Government agencies. The Department of State also hosted the second consultation, marking the largest gathering of tribal leaders at the Department in a decade.

Moving forward the Department understands the importance of engaging Native American communities and indigenous people on all fronts. This includes the shaping of best practices on sustainable growth and development for tribal communities, and promoting and protecting the collective rights of indigenous peoples as well as the human rights of all individuals. We are committed to advancing the criteria of inclusion of Native American communities in subnational engagement at the state-state level, city-city level, and globally.

Under President Obama’s leadership we believe that the United States is committed to serving as a model in the international community in promoting and protecting the collective and human rights of all individuals.

That commitment is reflected in the many policies and programs that are being implemented by U.S. agencies in response to concerns raised by Native Americans, including solutions for poverty eradication, unemployment, environmental degradation, health care, violent crime, and discrimination.

As we move forward together, Secretary Clinton has a deep commitment to this Administration’s agenda for addressing indigenous issues.

We will continue to advance the Department’s interests in maintaining intergovernmental dialogue that will engage the collective interests of all individuals.

The U.S. Government is focused on strengthening the government-to-government relationship with tribes and making sure agencies have the necessary input from tribal leaders before taking actions that have significant impact on the various tribes.

I am encouraged that the focus on strategic and economic development begins with the establishment of a dialogue on public-private partnerships at the subnational level. This dialogue will include government-to-government, state-to-state, city-to-city, and remote demographic areas that are particular to the Native American and indigenous population communities. We also want to encourage engagement with global communities to facilitate economic growth and generate opportunities for expanding business, and education.

We also would like to identify state and local leaders to encourage the development of bilateral platforms that the U.S. Department of State has developed with countries, such as Russia and Brazil, which share a similar interest in resources for business expansion and creation of new business ventures.