S President promised last week to end years of neglect by the federal government toward Native Americans, a pledge that may result in more and larger tribal casinos. Obama said he would honor agreements with tribes that had been broken, and drew comparisons to his own experiences as an outsider.
"Few have been more marginalized and ignored by Washington for as long as Native Americans, our first Americans," the President told the White House Tribal Nations Conference. He promised American Indians that "you will not be forgotten as long as I'm in this White House."
Under the Bush administration, much resistance was given to applications for tribal casino locations off reservation land. Officials at that time said the casinos must be in a position to create jobs for the operating tribe's members, disregarding the help for poverty-stricken Native Americans through gambling revenues.
The Obama administration has already indicated its willingness to loosen the policy on new casino applications. Tribes have been told that the Department of the Interior will not disqualify a casino request simply for being located away from reservation residents.
He told the gathered tribal leaders they have a right to be suspicious of promises from Washington. But he pointed out that he is keeping campaign pledges to bring Native American leaders into his administration.