- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 2, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Tribal leaders in the Dakotas will discuss topics including health care and economic development during an annual gathering in Bismarck this week.

A panel of experts will give updates on issues, and a panel of tribal leaders will ask questions at the 18th annual Tribal Leaders Summit, which runs Wednesday through Friday at the Bismarck Civic Center.

The question-and-answer format “helps our communities have a clearer understanding of what’s going on,” conference coordinator Julie Dejarlais told The Bismarck Tribune.

Other topics this year are public safety, energy, child welfare, housing and the environment. The keynote speaker is 1964 Olympic gold-medal runner Billy Mills. The Oglala Lakota athlete now works with an organization that helps American Indian youth. President Barack Obama in 2012 awarded him a Presidential Citizens Medal, the country’s second-highest civilian award.

The conference is open to the public.

“We want to be connected nationally, statewide, locally,” Dejarlais said.

The summit coincides with the United Tribes International Powwow, Thursday through Sunday at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck. The powwow draws hundreds of dancers and thousands of spectators from around the country each year, and is considered one of North Dakota’s premier cultural events. At least 70 tribes are expected to participate this year.