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Strengthening Tribal Nations Through Service

by Ron Lessard

As the Strategic Advisor for Native American Affairs it was my honor to represent the Corporation for National and Community Service at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) 67th Annual Convention titled, “Strong Tribal Nations; Strong America".

Last week in Albuquerque NM, thousands of tribal representatives gathered to discuss many issues including water rights, teen suicide, meth/prescription drug abuse, health care, education, housing, transportation, gaming, violence against women, law enforcement, tribal jurisdiction and telecommunications, climate change and more.

I spoke at the NCAI Youth Commission General Assembly stressing the importance of service as a solution to addressing critical issues affecting Native American communities. Indian Tribes and organizations that support Native American communities have been successfully drawing upon national service resources to meet family and community needs for more than 40 years.

I provided an overview of our Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America programs and emphasized that CNCS has been working with tribal nations on a government-to-government basis to address issues including assisting elders, cultural preservation, economic development, health and wellness, youth leadership, education and land preservation.

I informed the audience of the 2011 AmeriCorps funding opportunity giving priority to applicants that address pressing community problems in six focus areas: education, healthy futures, environmental stewardship, veterans and military families, economic opportunity, and disaster services. AmeriCorps grants are awarded to Indian tribes to recruit, train, and manage AmeriCorps members who address community needs.

Speaking to a full house at Thursday’s general assembly, I had the honor of introducing a video message from Patrick A. Covington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. Patrick’s message was inspiring as he spoke of the exciting impact of national service in Indian Country and the vision of future opportunities for tribal leaders to assist and tribal nations to be part of the national service movement.

Ron Lessard is the Strategic Advisor for Native American Affairs at the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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