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Standing Rock Sioux Tribe welcomes Obama for historic visit

Filed Under: National | Politics
More on: barack obama, michelle obama, north dakota, powwows, standing rock sioux, youth

President Barack Obama speaks at the Cannon Ball Flag Day Powwow in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on June 13, 2014. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama made a historic visit to Indian Country on Friday, meeting with youth and attending a powwow hosted by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota.

The Obamas boarded Air Force One at the White House in Washington, D.C., and arrived at the Bismarck airport around 2:13pm Central time. They hopped on a helicopter and touched down in Cannon Ball, a small community on the reservation, around 2:49pm, not far behind the official schedule.

“I never thought I’d see a president landing in our front yard, you know?" Alycia Yellow Eye told The Grand Forks Herald.

An eager crowd of dancers, drummers, singers, tribal leaders and tribal members patiently waited at the powwow grounds for the Obamas. But the couple first met with a group of youth at an elementary school nearby.

The official schedule had the Obamas at the Cannon Ball Elementary School for less than an hour. But they spent much longer with the youth and got to the powwow grounds later than anticipated.

The meeting was closed to the press but it was clear that it made a strong impression on the president, who later said it felt like they were his "own" children.

The Obamas eventually made it to the powwow grounds and were accompanied by Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault and his wife Nicole. They were greeted by loud applause as the Grand River drum group performed a "Chief" song for the president.

That was followed by a veterans song from the Hunkpapa drum group. Then a group of children from the Lakota Language Immersion Nest, a school on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, sang the Lakota national anthem for the Obamas.

A group of youth danced to an inter-tribal song before Chairman Archambault officially introduced the president. He said Sitting Bull, who lived on the reservation before he was killed there, would have been "honored" by the the visit.

"No other president has come close to the honesty and compassion he has shown to our tribal nations," Archambault said of Obama.

Archambault then presented a large star quilt to the president and a shawl to the first lady.

Obama finally took to the podium shortly before 5pm Central time. He spoke for less than 13 minutes but he touched on a wide variety of issues -- the "amazing" youth he met on the reservation, the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act through the Affordable Care Act, the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act, the inclusion of landmark tribal jurisdiction provisions in the Violence Against Women Act, plus with the $3.4 billion Cobell trust fund settlement and the $760 million Keepseagle settlement.

"There’s no denying that for some Americans the deck has been stacked against them, sometimes for generations," Obama said in his speech. "And that’s been the case for many Native Americans. But if we’re working together, we can make things better."

"We’ve got a long way to go. But if we do our part, I believe that we can turn the corner. We can break old cycles. We can give our children a better future," Obama added. "I know because I’ve talked to these young people. I know they can succeed. I know they’ll be leaders not just in Indian Country, but across America."

Obama finally departed the powwow grounds around 5:11pm as a wopila, or thank you, song was played.

Audio of Chairman Archambault's remarks and President Obama's remarks can be found on the Indianz.Com Sound Cloud:

Video of Obama's speech can be seen on YouTube or on the White House Video Page:

Get the Story:
Obama visit ‘totally a photo op,’ child welfare activists say (North Dakota Watch Dog 6/16)
Obama pledges to ‘break old cycles’ for native youth (The Grand Forks Herald 6/14)
Spirit Lake chair agrees with president’s focus on education (The Grand Forks Herald 6/14)
President Obama visits Standing Rock (The Bismarck Tribune 6/14)
President Obama makes two quick stops in Bismarck (The Bismarck Tribune 6/14)
Obama Visits Sioux Lands on a Trip Shadowed by Iraq (The New York Times 6/14)
Obama Visits Native American Reservation (Voice of America News 6/14)
Local Tribe Reacts To Obama's Reservation Visit (KELO 6/14)
Flandreau Indian Reservation Reacts To Obama Reservation Visit (KELO 6/14)
Obama visits Native Americans for first time as Pres., Ho Chunks weigh in on issues (WEAU 6/14)
Sioux Reservation Has Mixed Feelings About Obama Visit (NPR 6/13)
Obama: More US can do to help Native Americans (AP 6/13)
Attorney says Obama visit largely a positive one (AP 6/13)
Heitkamp glad Obama focused on Native children (AP 6/13)
President Obama puts focus on children during Standing Rock visit (KSFY 6/13)
As Obama makes rare presidential visit to Indian reservation, past U.S. betrayals loom (The Washington Post 6/13)
Obama making historic trip to Indian reservation (MSNBC 6/13)
Obama increases support to American Indians (CNN 6/13)
Reservation hopes for results from Obama's visit (AP 6/12)

Related Stories:
Obama's remarks to Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to be webcast (6/12)
Man pleads not guilty for death of woman from Standing Rock (6/12)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe prepares for President Obama's visit (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)

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