Thursday wraps up the Ninth Annual Governor’s Native American Summit, which took place on the campus of Utah Valley University. The Summit was created under former Gov. Jon Huntsman in an effort to improve state government relations with Utah’s Native American tribal leaders. Governor Gary Herbert, who was Lieutenant Governor at the inaugural Summit, spoke to attendees on Wednesday morning, and he took care of some long-awaited business in the process.
A drum call kicked off the opening session of the two-day Governor’s Native American Summit on Wednesday. For nine years now, Utah’s governor has met with tribal leaders from around the state at this summit. For the second year in a row, this event is taking place at Utah Valley University in Orem.
Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox and Governor Gary Herbert both spoke to open the event, as did Jason Walker, the chairman of the Utah Tribal Leaders, and featured speaker Roger Willie, A Navajo artist and actor perhaps best known for his role in the 2002 film Windtalkers. Willie offered his advice for tribal leaders and the Native American individuals in attendance.
"Those tribes who are successful, and individual Native Americans who become very successful, are those that find a way to maintain a balance between cultural integrity and change. It's open for interpretation, but the more you look at it, the more it makes sense," Willie said.
The Governor highlighted the importance of this Summit as an opportunity to open up dialogue between the tribes and the state government.
"That's what this Summit is about. It's supposed to hopefully help us open our hearts and our minds, not just during the conference time, but throughout the year as we work together to solve some of the challenges that are facing us," Herbert said.
At the conclusion of his remarks, Governor Herbert signed an executive order requiring that all state agencies implement a formal policy for consulting with Utah tribes. Walker, who is also the chairman of the Northwestern Band of Shoshone Nation, says he’s happy to see the directive finally come to fruition.
"We've been working on this thing for... seven years, I bet, we started it. It was one of Huntsman's priorities and Gov. Herbert took it over. It's been long time coming," Walker said.
Speaking on Thursday morning was William Mendoza, the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaskan Native Education. Education was expected to be a major topic at the Summit.