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Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • Tribal leaders of Great Plains meet roundtable with Obamas

  • Chief Sitting Bull’s ancestors of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North and South Dakota got the chance to meet President Obama and the First Lady Friday.
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  • Chief Sitting Bull’s ancestors of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North and South Dakota got the chance to meet President Obama and the First Lady Friday.
    Since the late 1800’s Sitting Bull’s legacy of bravery and wisdom continue to inspire the world.  “I think we can follow the lead of Standing Rock’s most famous resident, Chief Sitting Bull,” said President Barrack Obama, during his opening remarks at the Cannon Ball Flag Day Celebration Wacipi Friday afternoon. “Every Native American, deserves the chance to work hard and get ahead.”
    The President and First Lady participated in a roundtable discussion with tribal members earlier that day at the Cannonball School in Standing Rock.
    Roundtable topics included improving statutes within the Bureau of Indian Education by supporting the academic achievement of all Native American students.
    Equally important were the economic initiatives presented by the Obamas; to further economic development and strengthen sovereignty within tribal communities.
    Such topics included removing the regulatory barriers to infrastructure and energy development on Indian land, removing barriers to land development through increased tribal self-governance, making federal data and resources for tribal economic development easier to find and use, encouraging the use of tax-exempt bonds for tribal economic development, supporting the growth of new markets for Native American small businesses and lastly, supporting Native American veterans through employment and small business opportunities.
    “I know that throughout history, the United States often didn’t give the nation-to-nation relationship the respect that it deserved,” said Obama, acknowledging that  Chief Sitting Bull never lived to see the United States government fulfill its promises made through treaties. “So I promised when I ran to be a President who’d change that - a President who honors our sacred trust, and who respects your sovereignty, and upholds treaty obligations, and who works with you in a spirit of true partnership, in mutual respect, to give our children the future that they deserve.”
     
    “It’s amazing,” remarked Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s chairman Dave Archambault II, during Thursday’s rehearsal, the day before President Obama’s visit. “No other President has come close to the honesty and compassion [Obama] has shown to our tribal nations.”
    Although Chief Sitting Bull’s life ended at the hands of colonial oppressors, he died believing in his Lakota ways. “If we must die, we die defending our rights,” said Sitting Bull. “I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifle.”
    One of Sitting Bull’s most memorable quotes was “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children,” which Obama was keen on mentioning in his public address to Indian Country Friday afternoon.
    Page 2 of 3 - Today, as that courageous chief’s ancestors continue to face many challenges, chairman Archambault along with several other Great Plains tribal leaders brought to the forefront issues, which they say, needs turning around.
    Such issues are the high rates of poverty, youth dropping out of school and high rates of unemployment. Statistics prove that it is necessary to reform tribal education, while revamping tribal sovereignty, stressed Archambault. “Together I believe we can find solutions.”
    “Archambault wants the availability for the tribes to be able to teach what they want, to have their own curriculums,” said Steve Sitting Bear, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s external affairs director.
    “By the Obamas coming here and wanting to meet with our children, they’re actually wanting to see how it impacts their lives,” said Archambault.
    In regards to the future of economic development, Sitting Bear remarked “We would like to be able to restructure things and also create codes and new laws to help improve our sovereignty.”
    Several youth representatives were selected to speak during the roundtable discussion with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
    “It’s huge,” said Sitting Bear, of the roundtable discussion agenda. “It’s huge for us, it’s huge for our nation. It’s huge for Indian Country.”
    All tribal chairmen and tribal council members from the North Dakota and South Dakota nations were invited to attend the unprecedented event.
    Spirit Lake Nation’s tribal chairman Leander McDonald said “I think for the President of the United States to come and visit Indian Country, it’s so important for us. It recognizes the sovereignty of all of Indian Country - in regard to the nation-to-nation relationship between the United States and all Indian nations within the United States.”
    “What I really liked is the Great Plains were able to provide input on the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and the reformation plan that’s going into effect.” McDonald also added that increasing capacity at the local level rather than at the BIE or federal level is what is needed most by their young learners.
    “I was very impressed. I shook hands with them and they were really friendly,” said McDonald, on meeting with the President and First Lady during Friday’s historic roundtable discussion.
    Also discussed was funding for roads and transportation, health care service improvements, child protection services and judicial law enforcement. “All of those issues are important to us, all across Indian Country,” said chairman McDonald
    Chairman Dave Archambault II from Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, chairman Leander McDonald from Spirit Lake Dakota Nation, chairman Tex Hall from Fort Berthold Reservation, chairman Robert Shepherd from Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate nation and chairman Richard McCloud from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa all collaborated and attended the roundtable discussion with President Barrack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on Friday, as did several youth presenters from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
    Page 3 of 3 - North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Senator John Hoeven, Congressman Kevin Cramer and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewel, also sat in the roundtable discussion with the Obamas.
    A powwow was held the evening after the event, to honor tribal veterans, and to celebrate Indian Country’s big day with the Obamas.
    South Dakota
    “It’s a great opportunity because this is probably the only time that we’ll see President Obama in Indian Country,” said Irving Provost, a second term tribal council representative from the Oglala Sioux Tribe in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. “I also attended the Clinton visitation in Pine Ridge in 1999.”
    Provost said he drove more than six hours from South Dakota to the Standing Rock nation to seize the opportunity to listen to the President’s new initiatives for Indian Country. “It’s pretty positive.”
    “Right now we’ve got to look out for the future generations of our people,” said the father of five. “Our children should always come first, in regards to the future.”
    “We have to give them every opportunity we can, to sustain our future generations, our nations and our tribes,” Provost said lovingly, thinking of his eight grandchildren.
    “Incorporating new laws to make our sovereignty stronger and more developed than what federal statutes are in the best interest of the tribe.”
    “We have to look at challenges in the best interest and keep our Lakota values within our decision process,” Provost told the Journal.
    The Pine Ridge Sioux Tribe’s president, Brian Brewer said it will definitely help economic development. “This is really exciting,” said Brewer, while waiting for the President to arrive in Standing Rock Friday. “I’m just really happy the President chose one of the tribes of the Great Plains.”
    “It’s a great honor for us to have the President and First Lady here,” said Cyril Scott, president  of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “Number one, the President’s Indian Policy has been great. If you look back through what he has already done for Native Americans.”
    “We’re going to ask him to do more within treaty and trust responsibilities,” said Scott. “I am really honored by being here for the people.”

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