Obama vows to help tribal groups

US president tells native Americans he will do more to improve living standards.

    More than 550 leaders of native American communities attended the conference [EPA]

    "It's a commitment to getting this relationship right so that you can be full partners in the American economy and so your children and grandchildren can have an equal shot at pursuing the American dream."

    After his speech, Obama signed a document giving US government agencies 90
    days to submit proposals on methods ways to improve consultation with leaders of native American communities.

    Poverty widespread

    Thousands of native Americans live on reservations which in the most part are run by largely autonomous governments.

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    Native American communities tend to suffer from high levels of unemployment, poverty and alcoholism.

    The US president acknowledged that some native American reservations have unemployment rates of about 80 per cent and that about one quarter of people living on reservations are mired in poverty.

    Obama said he hoped that improved communication and consultation between the US government and tribal groups would help improve the lives of native Americans.

    "I know you've heard this song from Washington before," Obama said.

    "I get it. I am on your side. I understand what it means to be an outsider. I was born to a teenage mother. My father left when I was two years old," he said.

    "I know what it means to feel ignored and forgotten and what it means to struggle. So you will not be forgotten as long as I am in this White House."

    There are 4.5 million native Americans in the US, representing 1.5 per cent of the total population, according to official figures.

    Life expectancy of native Americans, at 72.3, is 4.6 years shorter than the national average.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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