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Obama Visits Sioux Land, Says US Must Do More to Help Native Americans

140613_obama-indian-country_1b00488acc8377cc5512b323f01984be.nbcnews-ux-640-520The plight of Native Americans jumped onto the national stage this week when President Obama made his first visit to Indian Country yesterday and told a crowd at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, that the U.S. could do more to help them.

It was the first time a U.S. president had visited what is known as “Indian Country” since Bill Clinton in 1999.

“Let’s put our minds together to build more economic opportunity in Indian Country. Because every American, including every Native American deserves a chance to work hard and get ahead,” Obama said.

“We can follow the lead of Standing Rock’s most famous resident, Chief Sitting Bull. He said, ‘Let’s put our minds together to see what we can build for our children,’” Obama said, referring to the Sioux chief who defeated Gen. George Custer at the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn.

 The president’s visit brought the difficult circumstances faced by Native Americans into stark relief. The 2.3-million acre Sioux reservation that hosted the president and first lady is home to about 850 people, and it suffers an unemployment rate of more than 60 percent, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

While the president highlighted progress in areas such as creating jobs, strengthening justice, and improving health and education during his administration, there were some Native Americans who told Al Jazeera America they were disappointed that his visit failed to contain more substance.

 Tribal leaders also used the opportunity to tell the president about their vociferous opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline that would run through their land, saying it would amount to a treaty violation. The controversial 1,661-mile pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Alberta province in Canada down to refineries along the Gulf Coast, has still not been approved by the president. In April, Obama pushed the decision further back after a legal dispute emerged over how the route was approved in Nebraska.

In a statement, Bryan Brewer, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, called the pipeline  “a death warrant for our people,” and that it would violate treaty rights. Critics have pointed to possible oil spills and the likelihood of the pipeline raising carbon emissions that are linked to climate change.

 “We don’t want that pipeline running through our lands, we want protection of the water, of our health, we want protection of our homeland,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council Representative Avis Little Eagle said.

The president talked about initiatives to spur tribal development and create new markets for Native American products and services.

“You don’t have to give up your culture to also be part of the American family,” Obama said.

The president and first lady also visited a school on the reservation where they met with young tribal members. Obama was just the third sitting president to come into Indian Country in almost 80 years. 

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2 thoughts on “Obama Visits Sioux Land, Says US Must Do More to Help Native Americans

  1. Rodney Ogden says:

    We are the indigenous Americans. Your everyday Black Folk. I wonder if Obama is at all cognizant to this fact.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank You, Mr President. Thank you for taking the time to see our Original Peoples, and their honoring of life, through a Celebration. Look and see the lack of "access to cash". With access to cash, our non-Original Peoples, were able to build homes,own cars, fund education, go on vacations, buy toys, start businesses, fund campaigns to the senate – governors office – mayors, build huge industries that became fortune 500 companies, and basically live a good life with access to cash.

    As you look around the Original Peoples land, you will see, NO "ACCESS TO CASH:, the barriers have been written into policy to punish the Original People who refuse to give up the dancing and celebrating life, and their speaking of their language. They have refused to become White Peoples. Instead, they continue to stand as a Proud People, deep deep in their culture, and are punished by white corporate American, by also having no fortune 500 companies being built around and with them.

    What a Awesome Day for the World to see. The American's most Powerful Man, President of the U.S. mingling with the Original Peoples, and doing what White America Government wishes would just disappear if ignored as a Proud Original Peoples.

    Change is acoming. White America must come "Face-to-Face" with their decisions to punish the Original People through "no access to cash", when time value of money says: the real estate of America by square footage was worth X back in 1776, and now sense land does not lose its value and only increases in value, is worth XX in today's dollars.

    Thank you Mr President for coming to the Reservation to give White America the view they wish would just disappear, and see that the Original People need "Access to Cash" to get caught back up with the rest of America. Industrial Revolution was purposely written to by-pass the Original People to punish them until they forgave their Culture and became White.

    America can return to its Peace, only through ceremonial harmony with ALL its people.

    Your Jesus's Father or God created the Original People too, remember your sunday school lessons.

    God Bless America – Come Enjoy and celebrate life through a Celebration – Peace

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