May 12, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Obama addresses Native American leaders

2 min read

President Barack Obama today promised to put an end to the US government’s 200-year history of neglect and broken promises towards the country’s Indian tribes. Barack Obama has signed a memorandum for closer consultation between Native America tribes and the US government.

Addressing representatives from more than 400 federally recognised Indian tribes – several of whom wore elaborate feather headresses, he said: “I know what it means to feel ignored and forgotten, and what it means to struggle. So you will not be forgotten as long as I’m in this White House.”

Noting that some reservations have 80% unemployment and that a quarter of Native Americans live in poverty, Obama signed a memorandum directing government agencies to consult and collaborate with the tribes. He described the gathering as the largest gathering of tribal leaders in US history.

While Native Americans have made gains in recent years thanks to legalised casino gambling on tribal lands, many continue to live in abject poverty on vast reservations, cut off from mainstream American society. Indians represent about 1% of the US population, mainly concentrated in the western states.

During the presidential campaign, Obama was named an honorary member of the Crow nation in the state of Montana, who named him “One who helps people throughout the land”. He pledged to appoint an Indian policy adviser to the senior White House staff, hold annual summits with tribal leaders, and said Indians would have “a seat at the table when important decisions are being made about your lives”.

He has since appointed a member of the Cherokee nation as an adviser on Indian issues and a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe to head the Indian health service, a first.

Obama and the Democrats also allocated more than $3bn in stimulus funds to tribal communities, much of it for school improvement.

During a question-and-answer session, tribal leaders asked for help with environmental cleanup, landless tribes, off-shore drilling and other needs.


2 thoughts on “Obama addresses Native American leaders

  1. PT2

    Yesterday at 5:02pm · Rosie Molano Blount: so if a greeting line takes too long as someone just pointed out…perhaps he could have had a "meet and greet"…yeah right!

    Yesterday at 5:13pm · Lise Balk King: I think this points to Obama's intention/commitment to Indian country: he got scathing rebuke from republicans for not "canceling" the Tribal Leaders Conference when the Ft. Hood tragedy happened. Obama not only didn't cancel it, he returned to deliver closing remarks and addressed the tribes *before* publicly addressing the Ft. Hood tragedy for … Read Morethe first time…and he was also severely criticized for doing that. Whether you agree or not with what Obama has pledged for Indian country, his commitment to understanding the complex issues and desire to fix them is undeniable.

    Yesterday at 5:20pm · Brenda Norrell: Thanks Rosie. Yes, could have been a meet and greet. Something. I can't imagine that the Native leaders were not disappointed. Best, Brenda

    Yesterday at 5:41pm · Marco Frucht: The paradox's are immense. He spent more time with them than anyone before him since Calvin Coolidge. But as you say he didn't shake any hands. And he really should've shaken every hand of each person older than him at the very least. And as early as his campaigning, he's the first in a very long time to list NDNs each time he mentions people being… Read More oppressed. But he lists them last and behind people he's kin to. If he wants to be real respectful he will list his own kin last, and himself uberlast. 🙂

    Yesterday at 5:45pm · Brenda Norrel: lThank you Marco. Best, Brenda
    Yesterday at 5:49pm · Brenda Norrell: So, how much time did Obama actually spend with the Native leaders during the sessions? I understand there was a crisis, but it appears he wasn't on the schedule for much of the day.
    Yesterday at 5:57pm · James Zion: Bill Clinton redux! and
    It's deja vu, all over again.

    Yesterday at 7:07pm · Brenda Norrell: Thanks James. I'm surprised more people aren't asking these questions. But I know Native leaders would want to be kind and respectful, even if they were disappointed. Best, Brenda

    Yesterday at 7:18pm · John Kane: Our word for the president is Rahnatakias. It means "town destroyer". My question would have focus on this view as a starting place. 43 have earned the title one way or another. He is currently poised to live up to being the 44th with legislation he has expressed a commitment to signing. The PACT Act specifically targets Native business. See Native Pride at
    Yesterday at 8:26pm · Brenda Norrell: Thanks John. Best, Brenda

    Yesterday at 8:40pm · Mike Price: Barack Obama was adopted into the Black Eagle family of the Crow Nation under the name Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuuxshish, or "One Who Helps People Throughout the Land."

    So far he has been keeping his promises with words, actions and funds directed to many tribes for education, health, law enforcement, roads and improvement to communications, water and electrical access…tsk, tsk…
    11 hours ago · James Zion: This nothing to do with any lack of respect for Obama. I am a strong supporter. Respect includes giving guidance when good people stray.

    8 hours ago · Brenda Norrell: Thanks for all your comments. Best, Brenda

  2. These comments taken from Facebook page:

    Brenda Norrell: Why didn't Obama greet and shake the hands of Native American leaders?

    These comments are so great, I'm posting these again. The question was: 'Why didn't Obama greet and shake the hands of Native leaders?'

    Native leaders were originally invited to a day at the 'White House' with President Obama. However, it was actually an invitation to the Interior building. Surely Native leaders were disappointed. The fact is, Obama wasn't on the schedule for much of the day and didn't even shake the elders' hands. And those there say, yes, the Native leaders comments to the Interior were also disappointing. Most viewers of the afternoon session (where mostly whites were sitting on stage staring down at Native leaders) turned it off.

    Brenda Norrell: Still looking for an answer to this question: Did President Obama greet the Native American leaders when they arrived at the meeting, and shake their hands? Or did he just speak to them and respond to 10 questions? Seems a matter of courtesy.
    Lise Balk King: no, there was no receiving line.

    Yesterday at 4:23pm · Barbara Low: No, but he did warn them not to "party all day"…..

    Yesterday at 4:31pm · Linda Lou Flewin: no..he made a joke about it….in poor taste

    Yesterday at 4:34pm · Brenda Norrel: lHi, Thanks for the responses. I did watch part on the livestream, but found it unbearable, too much of the same ole, same ole, in the afternoon. Best, Brenda

    Yesterday at 4:35pm · Lise Balk King: In my opinion, it would have taken a good deal of time to receive 400 leaders, and the decision was most likely made to use the time for discussion instead. I am not judging the decision as right or wrong, just observing. My issue was less with the president than with the "questions" asked of him. He was practically begging for real hard-hitting questions..and he got a lot of canned statements and "I wanna hug you." That part was painful to watch.

    Yesterday at 4:40pm · Deb Krol: Yeah, if I had been there [but since I'm a member of a state-recognized tribe I wasn't welcome!] I would have loved to ask him about federal recognition policy and the mess that has ensued.
    Yesterday at 4:54pm · Brenda Norrell:Thanks for the comments. I appreciate your comment Deb. And Lise, thanks so much. Since you were there, I'm glad to hear your reaction. Maybe its because I grew up in the south, but when you extend an invitation, there's certain things you do, and the first of those is a personal welcome and greeting, especially since it is government to government… Read More. I just wonder if a lot of Native leaders were disappointed: First they expected to be welcomed at the White House, but then I see them sitting in the Interior building with mostly whites sitting on the stage looking at them in the afternoon. Thanks again, best, Brenda


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