Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
WASHINGTON President Barack Obama addressed an enthusiastic crowd of American Indian tribes and Alaskan village leaders Wednesday afternoon in Washington DC at the White House Tribal Nations Conference.
" No one has to live under the cloud of fear or injustice."
The theme of this year's conference was "Continuing the Progress in Tribal Communities."
“As long as I have the privilege of serving as your President, we're going to keep working together to make sure that the promise of America is fully realized for every Native American,”
President Obama told the tribal leaders.
Each of the 566 federally recognized in the United States was able to send one leader to represent their tribe for the conference. Three Navajo Code Talkers were in the audience and seemed to be a hit among the White House photographers pool, as they sent several minutes taking pictures of the World War II heroes.
The Navajo Code Talkers were the Media Stars
The President said the tribal conference is one event he looks forward to each year. It was his administration that began the annual event held near the end of the year so that top administration officials can take a close look at tribal issues and concerns faced in Indian country.
When he was yet a candidate running for president, President Obama was adopted into the Crow Nation. He mentioned his adoption yesterday as he remembered Sonny Black Eagle, who adopted him into the tribe. Black Eagle passed away last week, one week short of his 79th birthday.
“He knew what it was like to be persecuted for who you are and what you believe. But as time went by, year by year, decade by decade, as Native Americans rallied together and marched together, as students descended on Alcatraz and activists held their ground at Frank's Landing, as respect and appreciation for your unique heritage grew and a seminal struggle played itself out, Sonny lived to see something else. He saw a new beginning,”
President Obama commented about Black Eagle.
The President spoke about how government turned a new page in its dealings with American Indians. He emphasized how his administration has worked to work with tribal nations in the era of self-determination an era Black Eagle saw.
Throughout the one day conference, administration officials repeatedly said more work needs to be done. This was echoed by the President.
All 566 federally recognized Tribes were able to
send one leader.
“These are the challenges that we can only solve together, and that's been our approach to the unique challenges facing Indian country,”
said President Obama.
Towards the end of his speech to tribal leaders, the President mentioned the horrific living conditions on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, such as the high rates of unemployment and lack of housing.
The new president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Bryan Brewer, who was sworn in on Tuesday and then flew to Washington to the attend the conference appreciated the fact President Obama focused in on the needs of his reservation.
Earlier in the day, President Brewer told the Native News Network:
“I was quite pleased to hear what they had to say. Listening to them talk though, you would not think we have any problems back home,”
In mentioning the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, President Obama praised the work of Nick Tilsen, executive director of the Thunder Valley Community Development Center.
“A few years ago, with the support of some grants and other members of his tribe, Nick built a community center that uses spiritual and cultural teachings to help young people stay off drugs and their parents live healthier lifestyles. And it's making a difference. So today, he's building something bigger a clean energy community that will provide affordable housing for folks who need it and help more Lakota small businesses get off the ground,”
said President Obama.
Tilsen was excited he was able to speak to President Obama prior to the President delivering his speech.
“I plan to work with Nick for the next two years, and support him and I know he work with me to support each other,”
said President Brewer after President Obama's speech.
posted December 6, 2012 3:30 pm est