FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 24, 1998

OTJ (202) 616 2765 TDD (202) 514 1888

CLINTON ADMINISTRATION TO HOLD CONFERENCE ON ECONOMIC SELF SUFFICIENCY IN INDIAN COUNTRY

WASHINGTON, D.C. In an effort to empower Indian communities to achieve economic self sufficiency, the Clinton Administration will host an inter agency conference that will address strategies for building strong tribal economies and business opportunities in Indian Country. Historically, the United States pledged in its treaties with Indian tribes to preserve Indian reservations as "permanent homes" for Indian peoples, but the large, western Indian reservations are often comprised of unproductive lands in remote areas. Although a few Indian tribes have made recent gains through Indian gaming, most reservation economies continue to lag far behind the Nation as a whole. For example, 31% of American Indians and Alaska Natives live below the poverty line. Unemployment rates in Indian Country far exceed the national average, with unemployment reaching above 50% on some of the larger Indian reservations according to Bureau of Indian Affairs Labor Statistics. Administration officials seek to build better understanding and to support working relationships between tribal governments and private industry. "We must all work together to create economic opportunity throughout Indian Country," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "It is inexcusable that so many American Indians and Alaska Natives continue to be among the poorest people in the nation, and have so little opportunity to make progress due to the remoteness of their reservation lands." The conference, entitled "Building Economic Self Determination in Indian Communities" will be sponsored by the White House and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, Transportation, the Treasury, and Small Business Administration and will educate tribal and business leaders about economic opportunities in Indian Country. Federal programs that promote economic development include: the Small Business Administration's HUB Zones program; Agriculture rural development program; Interior Indian Finance Act; and, Commerce Economic Development Administration programs. The conference will be held in Washington on August 5 6, 1998. Tribal leaders and interested businesses who would like to attend should call Angela Hammond, Conference Coordinator with the Justice Department's Office of Tribal Justice at 202/514 9078. Members of the media who wish to attend should call Christine DiBartolo with the Office of Public Affairs at 202/616 2765. # # # 98 345