During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama
(D-Illinois) visited the Crow
Reservation in Montana. File Photo © Lise King/The Native
Writer calls attention to unemployment, obesity, suicide and other issues as President Barack Obama prepares for his first visit to Indian Country since taking office in January 2009:
This Friday, President Obama will step on American Indian land for his first time as president. He'll be visiting the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which straddles one million acres of the Dakota plains, to meet with leaders and discuss issues facing American Indians. The last sitting president to visit reservation land was Bill Clinton in 1999, so this week's visit is a big deal.
In a June 5 op-ed in Indian Country Today, the president promised to do more for American Indians. But he also argued that his administration has already delivered great progress. Is that the case?
When Obama visits Standing Rock, he will find a community where 86 percent of residents are unemployed. That's only the sixth–worst unemployment rate among Indian reservations: the worst is 93 percent, at the Sokaogo Chippewa Community in Wisconsin.
On top of unemployment, the American Indian community faces a number of other challenges: sky-high rates of adolescent suicide, rape, obesity, alcoholism, drug use, physical abuse and even post–traumatic stress disorder.
Get the Story:
Sam Brodey: It's About Time for Obama's First Visit to American Indian Land
(Mother Jones 6/11)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe welcomes visit by
President Obama (6/6)
President Obama to visit Standing Rock Sioux
Tribe next week (6/5)
President Obama to
visit North Dakota reservation next month (5/26)