THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT ENDORSEMENT BY NEW MEXICO NATIVE AMERICAN LEADERS Holiday Inn Pyramid Hotel Albuquerque, New Mexico
2:40 P.M. MDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very, very much. Thank you, Congressman Richardson, for what you've said about the record that we have worked hard to make in partnership with the Native Americans. Thank you, Mayor Chavez, for being here. I want to thank the Native American leaders who have come here today to offer their support. And I thank President Hale and Governor Garcia for the words that they have given.
Let me say that there are many wonderful things about having the great honor of being President of the United States. But being able to be President of a country that includes the Native American tribes, to have the opportunity to work with them in a spirit of genuine respect, to work to improve the recognition of the integrity of their religious practices, to work to try to increase the level of independence and reduce the level of patronizing practices in the relationship of the Native American tribes to the Bureau of Indian Affairs -- all these things are very, very important to me.
As 42nd President, I was honored to be the first president since our fifth president, James Monroe, in the 1820s, to invite the leaders of every tribe in the United States to meet with me at the White House. We have worked hard to expand tribal sovereignty and self-determination. We have worked hard to make sure that every federal agency knows that it should consult with tribal governments at any time we're make decisions that affect American Indians and Alaskan natives.
By working together, we have moved forward. We have kept some bad things from happening, but we have also made some good things happen. We have a lot more to do. But we can be proud of what has been done in protecting self-determination, in preserving natural resources, in providing educational and economic opportunity, in defending tribal rights to protect children, families and culture.
America is going in the right direction in no small measure because every American and every American family, and every American ethnic, racial and religious group knows that in our America, they are all entitled to be treated with dignity and equality. But I am especially grateful for the Indian nations for standing with us as we have fought to preserve our common values, as we have worked to balance the budget without crippling our investments in people and our obligations to one another.
Now we have to continue the progress and build upon it. The endorsement of the leaders here and the work we will do together will be critical to keep our country moving into the right direction as we move into the 21st century. I value their friendship, I value their partnership and I look forward to working with them.
Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)
Q Mr. President -- meeting, and can your administration do anything, any more to resolve the current logjam?
THE PRESIDENT: No. There are some Indian gaming issues around the country that we still have the capacity to resolve. But the ones here are in the courts. And there's really nothing more for us to do except to let them work their way through the courts.
Q Mr. President, the so-called dean of Native American leaders is not here today, Mescalero Apache President Wendell Chino. And he wants you to fire U.S. Attorney John Kelly, the man who shut down his casino and so do, frankly, some people on the stage with you today. Is that going to happen, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: This issue is in the courts now and I have no further comment.
Q Mr. President, do you seek, in fact, the disputed $450,000? Everyone in the administration said there's nothing legal -- but some there's some ethical issues been raised. We haven't heard you say much about it.
THE PRESIDENT: Well I -- first of all, I expect to have the opportunity to discuss that tomorrow night. But I believe that the political parties should not give back contributions that were legally made and legally received. And if they made a mistake and took any money that shouldn't have been taken, then they ought to give that back. I think that there are clear FEC rules on this. There's a law on this. That's what we've got a Federal Election Commission for. And we know they're capable of doing their job because they've taken action this year already.
END 2:49 P.M. MDT