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LaFrance sharing tribal concerns at White House conference

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AKWESASNE - St. Regis Mohawk Chief Ron LaFrance is meeting with leaders from other American Indian tribes and federal representatives at the White House Tribal Nations Conferencethis week in Washington, D.C.

The two-day event will feature numerous breakaway sessions, where tribal representatives can share their thoughts and concerns with high-level representatives, as well as each other, followed Wednesday evening with President Barack Obama giving a state of Indian country-type speech, according to Mr. LaFrance.

He said he wants to attend the government-to-government consultation breakaway session, where he can discuss concerns about the GM (General Motors) toxic landfill cleanup.

“We want a better clean up,” Mr. LaFrance said. “I believe Alcoa should come in ... before the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) makes a decision.”

He also stated that he is looking forward to thank federal officials for backing the Mohawk land claim.

“It’s the first time in the history of our land claim that the U.S. is actually behind us,” Mr. LaFrance said.

In addition to those concerns, he said he wants to attend a session where he can discuss health and education issues. He said that although federal Indian healthcare funding levels have remained stagnant for about a decade, health problems are on the rise.

“Tribes across the country are dealing with a lot more health issues,” Mr. LaFrance said.

He added that he is looking forward to networking with other tribes.

“Even with the advent of casino gaming, there’s communities that are hurting,” Mr. LaFrance said. “There’s no need or reason for that.”

He said he believes that tribes should work with other governments and push for more economic development opportunities. He said Native territories need to push toward the president’s vision of the national economy, meaning creation of more light and medium manufacturing jobs.

“We need help doing that,” Mr. LaFrance said. “Indian communities need to be exposed in the same way states are to economic development opportunities.”

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