Topics: Indigenous, Politics

Special Advisor on Native American Affairs offers advice to First Nations.

By Heeni Brown

Karen Diver, a Native American from the Lake Superior Chippewa of Minnesota was a Special Advisor to President Obama on Native American Affairs.

Diver considers Barack Obama to be the best US President when it comes to supporting Native American issues.

Diver says, "I was there during the administration when a lot of the initiatives were trying to get over the finish line. My job was to work with the 27 different federal agencies that have a portfolio that serves tribal communities and help them with their policy initiatives and regulations."

In 2015, she was appointed as Special Advisor to the President for Native American Affairs.

She says when it comes to offering advice to other aboriginal nations, it's about addressing aboriginal issues.

"I have no secret recipe to give aboriginal people here, or indigenous people here around economic development. It is really about using disparities, it's about getting our kids through schools. It's about attention to mental health issues so they don't commit suicide. It's about dealing with addiction in adults and criminal justice reforms so we're not over represented in criminal justice systems."

"It's about parity and equity, it's about racism. All of those things that are real tough to talk about, but there are models out there that we can learn from each other. Because what I found is in indigenous communities, some of us make strides in certain areas and the more we hear from each other we can replicate those best practices in our own communities."

Diver also speaks of her people from Lake Superior Chippewa of Minnesota as a people who have reaped the benefits of the political system.

"My tribe has actually done really well. One of the advantages that tribes have in the united states is we took advantage of our unique political status and found a niche in the market and some of us operate casinos."

"Now, mind you my tribe is a rural tribe, it's not near a major population centre but it does add to our treasury so what that enables us to do is put money towards our economic developments or expand our health clinic or provide busing to students so they can come to head start projects and get a good start before they start their K12 education."

"It's allowed us to fill gaps and we've used a leverage to help turn over the dollar in our community. It's Northern Minnesota we buy propane for heat. So rather than always sending those dollars to other companies now we serve our members ourselves."

Diver says her biggest advice to all First Nations is to be consistent in maintaining ancestral and cultural beliefs, and that any progress from that will help lift the generations to come.