Webinars and Teleconferences are not the raw materials that Tribes use to build the infrastructure that they need. However, at USDA Rural Development we believe that these tools are crucial building blocks that help our Agencies and staff build a foundation for consultation, cooperation and mutual understanding with Federally Recognized Tribes.
Over the last few months, Rural Development co-hosted an Indian Housing Webinar Discussion Series with the National American Indian Housing Council. The goals of that series were clear and simple: 1) Educate USDA Rural Development personnel on the unique issues in providing affordable housing in Indian Country; 2) Educate Tribes and Tribal housing program staff on USDA Rural Development’s programs and services; and, 3) Examine and discuss strategies to improve the partnership between Tribal housing programs and USDA Rural Development. The final webinar was hosted on November 7th and in preparation for the National American Indian Housing Council’s Legal Symposium in December 2012, we are putting together a joint white paper on the Webinar Series and recommendations to consider moving forward.
Concurrently, on October 17th USDA Rural Development launched an ongoing, quarterly, Tribal Consultation Webinar and Teleconference process. In short, the idea is to offer a regular, predictable venue to consult with Federally Recognized Tribes on a broad range of program and policy issues as we move through time. USDA Rural Development’s Acting Deputy Undersecretary Judith Canales hosted the first event as Rural Development’s consulting official and Tribes and tribal organizations from around the country participated in and offered their ideas, comments and suggestions in a robust and open dialogue. Each future Tribal Consultation Webinar and Teleconference will be preceded by a pre-consultation briefing, one month prior to the consultation event, to provide background materials and information regarding the topics to be covered. The schedule for 2013 includes consultation Webinars and Teleconferences on January 16th, April 17th, July 17th and October 9th all at 3:00 PM Eastern Time. More information on the USDA Rural Development Tribal Consultation Webinar and Teleconference process is available here.
USDA Rural Development does not offer these virtual communication strategies in a vacuum. We continue to encourage Tribes to meet with us in their own offices, in USDA Rural Development State and Local offices and in Washington, DC. As we recognize and celebrate National Native American Heritage Month here at USDA Rural Development we also want to take a moment to remind our diverse customer base that even in tough budgetary times we are doing all we can to roll out the welcome mat, in front of our many open doors, ensuring that USDA remains “The Peoples Department.”
To read the Presidential Proclamation designating November as Native American Heritage Month, click here.