Hours after adjourning a tense Oval Office meeting about the Iraq crisis, President Obama found himself on the ancestral lands of Chief Sitting Bull, taking part in a celebration to honor American Indians who have served in America’s foreign wars.
On a windswept plain next to the Missouri River, dancers and drummers from the Sioux and other tribes, encircled by American flags, created a pulsing swirl of color and noise as Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, nodded their heads in time to the music.
In his first visit to an Indian reservation as president, Mr. Obama told the raucous crowd of 1,800 people that he had delivered on his promise as a presidential candidate in 2008 to improve relations between the government and the nation’s Indian tribes.
“There’s no denying that for some Americans, the deck’s been stacked against them, sometimes for generations, and that’s been true of many Native Americans,” the president said. “But if we’re working together, we can make things better.”
Mr. Obama announced a series of modest education initiatives to improve schools for Indian children. Before the flag ceremony, Obamas met with high school students at a school on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to hear about the pressures they face growing up here.
Tribal leaders praised Mr. Obama and presented him with a ceremonial blanket with an eight-point red, white and blue star. “No other president comes close to the honesty and compassion he has shown for our tribal nations,” said David Archambault II, one of the leaders. It was a rare respite for a president lurching from crisis to crisis. Mr. Obama tried out a few words in the Lakota language and held children in his arms during the farewell ceremony.
But he also encountered pressure on a familiar front as some of the leaders and protesters urged him to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and other oil-sand pipelines, which they say would devastate their land, water, climate and treaty rights.
SOURCE: MARK LANDLER
The New York Times