McKOSATO 7/5 (Harlan, “For Natives, a split in opinion on Obama”, http://www.santafenewmexican.com/opinion/local_columns/for-natives-a-split-in-opinion-on-obama/article_a89d35a1-3ab8-5036-b1a4-2796476affc2.html, Accessed 7/20 //RJ)
Three weeks ago, President Barack Obama made his first visit to an Indian reservationas the sitting president when he and first lady Michelle Obama dropped in on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannonball, N.D. Many of us remember when, on the campaign trail before his first term, Obama made a trip to the Crow Rez in Montana, where he was adopted by the Black Eagle family and given a Crow Indian name.¶ Barack and Michelle arrived in Dakota and Lakota country on the day of Standing Rock’s annual Flag Day Powwow (which happened to be Friday the 13th). They met with a group of young Native Americans for a roundtable discussion before heading over to the powwow.¶ They were greeted with cheers, drums, dancers, tepees and a song to honor Mr. President. They sat next to Standing Rock Chairman David Archambault, who proudly wore an eagle-feather headdress. Archambault, in his welcoming remarks, said that the great Lakota Chief Sitting Bull once asked the U.S. government to send an honest man to his reservation.¶ “If Sitting Bull were sitting here today, he’d be honored,” said the chairman. “The best thing that’s happened to Indian Country has been President Obama being elected. I know [his visit] is not going to undo all the wrongs that have been done to Native Americans or to Indian Country, but it’s going to inspire a lot of people.”¶ The president, in his 12-minute speech, touted his administration’s record in dealing with Native Americans. He pointed to settling two key court cases, the Keepseagle and Cobell litigation. He commended the White House Tribal Nations Conference and the establishment of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, as well as the passage of the Violence Against Women Act.¶ But not everyone was quick to praise the president, including Tex Hall, chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation of North Dakota. He was quoted in The Washington Post: “There’s been a bad track record. Our fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers have gone to Washington, and there havebeen … no promises kept. That’s why we’ve not trusted the federal government.”¶ I recently spoke with the acclaimed Native activist and poet John Trudell and asked him about his opinion of the Obama administration. “I don’t trust them. I think the whole entire political system is corrupt, whether it’s the Republicans and George W. Bush, or the Democrats and Obama. I think they all serve the corporate fate. In general, the system is filled with lies and tokenism. As Native people, we’re so far down the list because we don’t have the numbers, and the politicians just show up for photo ops.¶ “When you look at the sovereignty, the economics, the cultural well-being of the Native people [Obama] hasn’t done one thing,” said Trudell. “He’s just like every other U.S. president. I think a lot of Native people are just glad to finally be acknowledged. You look at the time Obama has been in office, and the teen suicide rates on reservations are [still] out of control, the poverty is out of control. When you’re surrounded by these statistical dynamics, how can you have self-esteem? Being acknowledged is an illusion. It might make you feel good for a little while, but it doesn’t change the overall quality of life for our children.”¶ In his speech, the president referenced Sitting Bull’s famous quote, “Let us put our minds together to see what we can build for our children.” Obama added, “There’s no denying that for some Americans the deck has been stacked against them, sometimes for generations. 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.”¶ Only time will tell.