December 16th, 2010
11:15 AM ET
By CNN Wire Staff
"We're making progress," Obama said at the White House Tribal Nations Conference, the second of his administration. "We're moving forward. What I hope is, we're seeing a turning point in the relationship between our nations."
He said he wants to hear more from tribes about how that can be done, whether it's through supporting education and health care on reservations, combating crime or job creation, "and that's why we're here today."
The president said his administration has tackled some of the largest issues faced by American Indian communities, helping to create infrastructure, eliminate bureaucratic barriers and boost public health on reservations, where
The Justice Department, he said, is working to reform the criminal justice system on reservations. The Tribal Law and Order Act, signed by the president in July, contains measures to help fight drug and alcohol abuse on reservations, gives authorities better access to databases and improves opportunities for at-risk Native American youth.
American Indians' history has been "too often marred by broken promises and grave injustices against the first Americans," Obama said. While he acknowledged that no words can undo the damage, he said his administration aims for action to match those words.
Native Americans have been faced with a choice, he said - abandon their heritage or accept a lesser lot in life.
"We know this is a false choice," he said. "To accept it is to believe that we can't and won't do better, and I won't accept that."