Obama takes executive action for tribes

President Obama on Friday will unveil a series of new executive actions designed to improve tribal education and economic development as he makes his first trip to Native American country as president.

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While visiting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation in North Dakota, the president and first lady will hold a meeting with young Native Americans and attend a ceremony focused on honoring tribe members who served in the armed forces.

Obama is also expected to unveil a series of new government initiatives designed to improve Native American economic development, which lags behind the rest of the country.

Those actions include a new order to increase tribal control of schools and a bid to accelerate broadband Internet connectivity to tribal schools and dorms. As part of that initiative, Verizon has agreed to provide free Internet access for the next two years to 10 dorms where more than 1,000 children live while attending public schools outside their reservations.

The president will also announce a new proposed rule to streamline the approval process for infrastructure construction on reservations, in the hopes of easing construction of transmission lines and broadband access.

And the administration will launch a new training series designed to help Native Americans more easily navigate land leasing regulations on reservations, which complicate the purchase of homes or land for businesses.

Obama will also announce a new summit designed to examine the needs of American Indian language speakers, and finalize plans to provide tribal leaders with access to college financial aid data.

"The president will underscore his commitment to upholding our strong and crucial nation-to-nation relationship, describe his administration’s efforts to strengthen Native American communities through education reforms and investing in economic development, and highlight the progress that has already been made — working together — to expand opportunity in Indian Country," a White House official said in a statement.

"He will also recognize that much work remains to be done, and he is eager to continue working closely with tribal leaders and nations to create meaningful change."

It will be the first visit by a sitting president to Native American country since 1999, when Bill Clinton visited a reservation in South Dakota. Obama visited the Crow Nation in Montana during his 2008 presidential campaign.