The chairman of the Pala Band of Mission Indians met with President Barack Obama on Thursday as part of a 12-member delegation of tribal leaders to discuss American Indian issues ranging from law enforcement to health care. Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro was not chosen to meet with the President.
The face-to-face meeting with the president was part of the larger White House Tribal Nations Conference, a one-day meeting held at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., to give tribal leaders an opportunity to meet and talk with representatives of the Obama administration.
Pala Chairman Robert Smith said he was honored to have been chosen to represent California Indian tribes at the meeting with the president.
"It was quite an experience," Smith said. "I was surprised and happy."
In the 20-minute meeting, Smith said, he emphasized the need to appoint more American Indian judges in federal courts and the need for more funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to provide services for poor and nongambling tribes. Violations of civil rights by Indian tribes should also be a topic of discussion