Tribal leaders in the Puget Sound area gathered on Bainbridge Island Thursday for a summit about top issues in Indian Country. They were joined with U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to discuss federal priorities.
Before Jewell took the stage, tribal leader Billy Frank Jr. wrapped up his own comments about climate change. “Big business is saying it costs too much to have clean water," Frank said. “Our salmon has to have clean water.”
Frank is known for his decades of defending Washington tribes’ treaty rights. Jewell knows him well. Part of her job is to oversee federal policies on Native American issues.
Climate change is also on Jewell’s list of top three trends dominating her agency. "One of the reasons I stepped up to take this job is that in this administration, we actually have a chance to do something about that,” Jewell said.
Another item on Jewell’s list is leadership training for young people. Jewell said she’s worried about a growing number of young people who are disconnected from nature.
"Who’s going to be the next Billy Frank that’s going to stand up for treaty rights and the salmon fishery in the northwest?" she asked.
The third trend she talked about was budget constraints. Jewell’s often mentioned the challenge to meet the agency’s goals with a tightening federal budget.
However, President Obama has requested a small budget increase for Indian Affairs in 2015.