President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama also plan to attend the reservation’s annual Cannon Ball Flag Day celebration, which honors Native American veterans.
For some at Standing Rock, the President’s trip is a long-awaited source of excitement and recognition.
The last time Obama visited Indian Country, as a candidate in 2008, he was greeted with beating drums and cheers. “Few people have been ignored by Washington as long as Native Americans – the first Americans,” Obama told the crowd that day, promising to improve health care and educational opportunities for American Indians. . The Crow adopted Obama into the nation and into the Black Eagle family, giving him the name Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuuxshish or “He who helps people across the country.”
“It’s just encouraging to have a visit like this,” said David Archambault father, a longtime educator from the Standing Rock Reservation and father of the Tribal Chairman. “What the president has done is like night and day. Our history shows that it’s like no one has compassion for us. We are here and we have resources and throughout the history, people wanted to take them away from us, and for the first time, someone is taking care of us.
Like so many other reservations across the country, Standing Rock suffers from a myriad of social, economic, and educational problems. The unemployment rate is 79%. There is little economy to speak of. Infant mortality, suicide and abandonment rates are among the highest in the country.
Scott Davis, executive director of the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission, said beyond the excitement of a rare presidential visit, he hopes to hear Obama articulate policy initiatives that could improve the lives of residents of Reserve.
“One thing I’ve been watching recently is the president’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. I watched this tune months ago and saw it with a bunch of African American gentlemen and thought there was something missing in this piece,” Davis said. “Because it’s aimed at men of color, what’s missing are Native American men, because we have pretty much the same issues as African American men.”
Either way, Davis said, he applauds the president’s efforts to build bridges with tribes and on Native American politics.
Senator Heidi Heitkampa Democrat from North Dakota, will join the president and first lady during their visit.
Heitkamp said she hopes the president’s visit will highlight the rich culture and history of the Lakota Sioux people, but also the tribe’s often unseen suffering.
“Native Americans didn’t gain citizenship until the 20th century and were only allowed to vote if they renounced their tribal citizenship,” Heitkamp said. “We don’t talk about it a lot. For so many years they weren’t even considered US citizens and they remained invisible.
For most of the three decades since Heitkamp served as state attorney general, she said she has worked as an advocate for Native Americans. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2013, and her first bill sought to create a commission on Indigenous children to study issues that Indigenous children face disproportionately, including high rates of poverty, child abuse and suicide. Last month, the bill passed the Senate Indian Affairs Committee unanimously and moved closer to a vote in the Senate. She also introduced legislation to help preserve Native American languages and culture.
The Obama administration has focused aggressively on Native American issues, in some contrast to the long and generally poor relationship between the United States government and the original people of this land, who have borne the brunt broken treaties and land theft amid our nation’s sometimes ruthless expansion. .
Obama hosted an annual White House Tribal Nations Conference and used an executive order to launch the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education and other initiatives. unpublished for indigenous peoples.
With childhood obesity rampant in Indian communities, the administration launched “Let’s Move in Indian Country” in 2011, an offshoot of Michelle Obama’s nationwide campaign against childhood obesity.