President Obama with children at Standing Rock Indian Reservation
Two national American Indian organizations
, the National Congress of American Indians and the National Indian Education Association, lauded the presidential visit by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama this past Friday, June 13, 2014 to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
The two organizations issued statements on the presidential visit.
Natonal Congress of American Indians statement:
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) applauds President Obama for upholding his ongoing commitment to tribal nations and Native peoples by travelling to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Friday, June 13.
Since taking office, President Obama has remained steadfast in honoring our nation-to-nation relationship. President Obama has kept his commitment to host the annual White House Tribal Nations Summit in Washington D.C. These summits have facilitated unprecedented engagement between tribal leaders and the President and members of his Cabinet.
At the 2013 White House Tribal Nations Summit, the President announced that he would visit Indian Country himself – a longtime priority of tribal leaders. Friday’s visit to Standing Rock fulfills that promise. This historic visit is the first by a sitting President in over 15 years and makes President Obama only the fourth President in history to ever visit Indian Country
The President addressed the economic development needs of tribal nations and the needs of Native youth. While tribal youth are included in the Administration’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, this Administration has always known that Native children have specific cultural and education needs that require focused attention.
For this reason, Indian Country has witnessed an unprecedented collaboration between the Secretary Jewell at the Department of the Interior and Secretary Duncan at the Department of Education, to study what is necessary to make sure that all of our Native students – in public schools, tribal schools, and Bureau of Indian Education schools have the tools they need to ensure a strong future for all Native children. In 2013, Secretary Jewell visited the Pueblo of Laguna to see first hand how a tribal education department was improving the quality of schools operations, performance and structure of BIE schools. She witnessed a nation that was engaged and excited to participate in efforts to improve educational outcomes in Indian country.
It will take visits like this – the agencies working together with tribal governments and national organizations such as the NCAI and the National Indian Education Association to ensure that our students can be the future tribal leaders, teachers, health care workers, and entrepreneurs that our nations and the United States need to thrive for generations to come.
The President’s visit builds on ongoing efforts of his Administration to work closely with tribal nations on policy that affects their citizens. We trust the visit will be a catalyst for more policies that will not only succeed today, but cement the positive relationship between tribal governments and the federal government well into the future. President Obama has made annual summits between our nations in his words, “almost routine.” We trust this will be the continuation of his Administration’s engagement with our nations that makes visits to Indian Country by the President and his Cabinet routine too.
National Indian Education Association – President Pamela Agoyo statement:
NIEA President Pamela Agoyo applauds the President visit to Indian Country, by stating:
The National Indian Education Association is excited by the President’s visit to Indian country Friday. More importantly, we applaud President Obama for focusing on longstanding Indian education issues. We have repeatedly testified before Congress on the disparate situation facing students attending BIE schools and now is the time to turn words into action. While there will be much work to accomplish, we are glad the Administration has listened to tribes and plans to strengthen tribal self-determination in order to improve educational outcomes for our students.
This is a critical first step in the right direction and we look forward to working with the federal government to ensure it upholds the trust responsibility to Indian education as well as collaborates with tribes to address their local needs.