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Obama to visit Indian Country next year

President Barack Obama speaks at the 2013 Tribal Nations Conference, Wednesday, at the Interior Department in Washington. AP photo

President Barack Obama speaks at the 2013 Tribal Nations Conference, Wednesday, at the Interior Department in Washington. AP photo

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama told Native American leaders Wednesday that he will make his first trip as president to Indian Country next year, expanding on his vow to enhance the bond between the federal and tribal governments.

Obama told the tribal leaders at the fifth annual White House Tribal Nations Conference that the federal government still has work to do to sustain a strong relationship with tribal governments.

He said that the United States can do more to give tribes more control over their communities and that high rates of poverty among Native Americans are “a moral call to action.” In addition, he said, the federal government needs to ensure that Native Americans have access to affordable health care and must help tribes be good stewards of their native homelands.

“Standing up for justice and tribal sovereignty, increasing economic opportunity, expanding quality health care, protecting native homelands — this is the foundation we can build on,” Obama said.

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