OREM, Utah – Gov. Gary Herbert gathered with eight Utah tribal leaders Thursday at Utah Valley University to celebrate a partnership they brokered 10 years ago to create a Native American summit.
“I think our Native American summit has fostered better dialogue and better understanding, which is going to give us better outcomes in the future,” Herbert said.
The Navajo Nation hosted this year’s gathering. Their theme centered around the Navajo word, Hozho, which means living life in balance and harmony.
It’s a goal Governor Herbert strives for as he helps tribal leaders improve living conditions on reservations.
“What we want to do first and foremost, is help them help themselves,”Herbert said.
The governor said the state is working closely with tribes to provide more jobs, better access to health care and educational opportunities. He said some of their efforts are slowly paying off.
“Our graduation rates, which were very low for the Native Americans, which was around 50 percent graduating from High School, way too low, but now they’re at 65," Herbert said. "That’s still way too low, but it’s still a significant improvement."
Tribal leaders are investing in their future by educating their youth.
One hundred teens from various tribes are also part of the summit experience.
“There are seminars here for kids to talk about engineering, health care--really to get them thinking about what career goals they want to do, to encourage them to seek an education beyond high school,” said Geoffrey Fattah, communications director for the Utah Department of Heritage & Art.
Older tribal members hope the younger ones will take these lessons to heart.
"The summit is to exchange ideas and to educate the youth so they become leaders. They'll be able to know the different resources that are out there,” said Rios Pacheco, a member of the Northwestern Shoshone and Santo Domingo Pueblo tribes.
Pacheco commends state leaders for organizing the summit. He says other states don’t hold gatherings like this, which benefit both parties because they have an open dialogue.
The summit wraps up on Friday.