President Barack Obama at Choctaw Nation – Photo by Reid Williams
A capacity crowd showed up on the Choctaw Nation to hear President Obama
DURANT, OKLAHOMA — “I want to make sure that everyone of these young people are fine,” said President Obama in his address to the Choctaw Nation. “Because I know Malia and Shasha [Obama] will be fine. I want to make sure Kelsey will be fine.”
Kelsey Janway is a 16 year old Choctaw Nation citizen living in rural Oklahoma in the Durant area where the President gave his speech late yesterday afternoon on his ConnectHome and ConnectEd initiative.
According to Obama, Kelsey grew up barely having access to a phone service and today she and her school barely have access to the internet because of their rural location. Obama intends his initiative, ConnectHome, to be able to remedy this problem for America’s students by 99 percent within the next three years. Totaling 29 million more students, 55,000 schools with high speed broadband, and 20 million more are anticipated to have wifi in the classroom across the nation by 2018.
The president’s visit is the second visit to the Choctaw Nation is President Obama’s second visit to an American Indian tribe in as many years. Last June, he and First Lady Michelle Obama visited the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation in North Dakota.
Presidential visits to tribal lands are extremely rare. Previous to President Obama’s visit to Standing Rock last year, President Bill Clinton was the last president to visit an American Indian nation. He paid a visit to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1999.
Choctaw Nation is the only tribal nation amongst the 27 cities participating in ConnectHome. In the select communities of the Choctaw Nation private and public sectors will partner in ensuring that over 425 Choctaw public housing residents have access to low-cost, high speed internet.
Junior Miss Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Summer Moffitt, attends school in Hugo, Oklahoma rural community with a population of 5,300.
“I think this is more serious than people realize,” said Moffitt. “We need the internet to do our daily things now. And there is no way for our tiny rural towns to provide us all the information we need. Our school’s wifi is not very good. It makes it hard to get all the information that I need. I can’t go to the public library every single day. I do not have a driver’s license or a permit and I can’t drive myself there and it’s very hard to get all the information that I need to write an essay or work on a speech.”
Principal Chief of the Muscogee Creek Nation George Tiger is an advocate of expanding resources and the ability to disseminate information and believes in this initiative.
HUD Secretary Julián Castro said that Department of Housing and Urban Development will require new residential construction projects and rehabilitation projects to support broadband connectivity.
Principal Chief of the Muscogee Creek Nation George Tiger, and Chickasaw Governor Bill Annoatubby were in attendance and both are advocates of expanding resources and the ability to disseminate information, believing in the initiative.
“Without that kind of broadband access it cripples them [students] to a degree. They are unable to have the same opportunities as those around them,” said Governor Annoatubby. “We had real problems with self-service for many years and things are starting to improve for our Native communities and it puts us on a more level playing field. Without the web you are not equal when it comes to opportunity.”
“Muscogee Creek Nation has tremendous stories that must be told and internet broadband expansion will allow for that opportunity to not only our tribal members but to everyone,” said Tiger.
ConnectHome is launching in Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma where the Obama administration is working with local leaders in high-poverty communities to achieve their education and economic goals. For Promise Zone areas President Obama has also called on Congress to cut hiring and investment taxes to attract business and create jobs.