President of National Congress of American Indians talks about cooperation between governments

On behalf of the Michigan Rolling Thunder Chapter No. 1, Glenn Zaring presents a gift of appreciation to Jefferson Keel. (Eric Sagonowsky/News Advocate)

MANISTEE – Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians, visited the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians at its spring meeting Saturday to communicate pressing issues for American Indian tribes.

“He looks at the larger picture of the tribal world in the United States and fights for us,” said Glenn Zaring, LRBOI public relations director. “He has sort of the eagle-eye view, looking down, of all of the issues. There might be some things which we do not think about here that are very critical to tribes overall.

“Tribes all share certain issues they are having to face, certain challenges. To have somebody of president Keel’s stature up there fighting for us is very wonderful. This is the first time that we have had president Keel or any president of this national organization here in Manistee.”

Keel discussed the importance of intergovernmental relationships during a question and answer session with media on Saturday.

“Historically, federal Indian policy was made for Indians by non-Indians,” Keel said. “Now, tribal leaders are involved in the process. We are able to meet with the president annually and directly request assistance on things from him and interact with him, which has not been the case (in the past).

“Through my tenure, I have seen improved communications with the White House and all of the federal agencies.”

Keel has served as the NCAI president since 2010 and represents more than 500 American Indian tribes across the country from Alaska to Oklahoma.

“We feel blessed that he would actually come here to Manistee and be part of his organization here, so we thank him very much,” Zaring said.

Keel stated that, as it is in Manistee County, Native American cooperation with local government can be mutually beneficial and that many tribes across the country utilize revenue sharing boards and shared public safety staffs.

“Most tribal communities are not isolated,” Keel said. “We are part of the community. We go to local businesses, are grocery shopping, all of those things, we are contributing in different ways.

“We want to make sure that we share as much as we can within the community. The old saying about a rising tide raises all ships, if you can contribute to the community and raise the quality of life, the quality of life for everyone then improves.”

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Posted by Eric Sagonowsky

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