April 30, 2009

Interior secretary tours Fort Berthold, meets with TAT Business Council

Interior secretary tours Fort Berthold, meets with TAT Business Council
By MARVIN BAKER
EDITOR
Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar was in New Town Saturday on the 96th day of the Obama Administration, keeping a campaign promise that a cabinet member would visit an Indian reservation in the first 100 days.
In a tight, two-hour shedule, Salazar toured the Fort Berthold Agency One-Stop Shop and met with the Three Affiliated Tribes Business Council on a number of topics. He spent a few minutes mingling with the crowd at the conclusion of the Tribal Business Council session and was whisked away in a motorcade for a flight to the Great Plains Synfuels plant in Beulah.
Salazar admitted choosing Fort Berthold as his first reservation to visit may have been slightly influenced by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., the chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee. But because Fort Berthold is such a diverse reservation, he thought it appropriate to see it first hand and meet the leadership face to face.
I made the decision to come to North Dakota because of the issues facing Indian country in North Dakota,” Salazar said. “What we see here is a manifestation of all issues.”
Those issues include energy development, education, health care and law enforcement.
“It’s an honor to be here with you and the chairman,” Salazar told business council members as he sat left of TAT Chairman Marcus Levings in the TAT chambers. “This is a new beginning on how we’ll address issues in Indian country across America.”
He suggested President Obama is keen on creating jobs and a better way of life on America’s reservations and Fort Berthold is a good place to start. He said some reservations have as high as 40- and 50-percent unemployment rates while Fort Berthold has largely been spared with about a 10 percent unemployment.
In addition, his staff will work to reduce the amount of time it takes to get an oil-drilling permit on a reservation, which in turn, will create jobs for Indian workers.
As part of the American Recovery and and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Salazar announced earlier in the day that $500 million will fund new school and housing construction, road and bridge improvements and workforce development projects. The Department of Indian Affairs office will also offer federally guaranteed loans for American Indian-owned businesses.
 


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