Statement from HHS Secretary Sebelius on National Native American Heritage Month

November 07, 2011 –

Statement from Secretary Sebelius on National Native American Heritage Month

This month we celebrate National Native American Heritage Month, to honor American Indians and Alaska Natives who have contributed a great deal to our country.  I recently had the opportunity to visit Indian Country in Alaska and I can say first hand that Native Americans are passionate, determined people who play a momentous role in enriching the spirit of our Nation.

They are among some of America’s most significant authors, artists, scientists, and political leaders. And they have fought to protect this country as members of our Armed Forces. Native Americans have long demonstrated their commitment to advancing the common goals of this Nation, and we honor their resolve in the face of years of marginalization and broken promises.

The Obama Administration is addressing problems that have burdened Native American communities for far too long. Here at the Department of Health and Human Services we are working to expand access to affordable health care. Thanks to the new health care law, we have given the Indian Health Services office the authority to establish expanded health care services such as mental and behavioral health treatment and prevention, long-term care services, and dialysis services. We also support the First Lady Michelle Obama’s recently launched Let’s Move! in Indian Country initiative, which aims to encourage healthy living specifically for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

It is our mission to raise the physical, mental, and social health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level. And our goal is to assure that comprehensive, culturally acceptable personal and public health services are available and accessible to American Indian and Alaska Native people. Our work is rooted deeply in the foundation to uphold the Federal Government’s obligation to promote healthy American Indian and Alaska Native people, communities, and cultures as well as to honor and protect the inherent sovereign rights of Tribes.

So join me in paying tribute to the rich heritage and many contributions of American Indians and Alaska Natives this month and always.