Thursday, December 10, 2015

Chairman Reflects On President's Visit To Reservation

President Obama visits with Standing Rock children Tȟatȟáŋka Waánataŋ (Charging Bull) (left) and Matȟó Napé Ská (White Hand Bear) (right) at the Cannonball Flag Day Wačhípi (pow-wow), June, 2014. 
Chairman Reflects On President's Visit
A Visit With Youth Provokes Action
By Dakota Wind
Cannonball, N.D. – Every Flag Day on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation the 
community of Cannonball hosts the annual Flag Day Wačhípi (Pow-wow). Families from across the reservation bring the American flags of their loved ones in memory over each gathering. 

The 2014 Cannonball Flag Day W
ačhípi was going to be different. 

Flags caught in the wind rippled and snapped above the wačhípi grounds. 

After a months-long assessment, White House staff selected Standing Rock for the President and First Lady to visit from among a handful of other destinations that day. Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II credits former Chairman Charles Murphy for creating a positive professional relationship with the White House Chief of Staff, Mr. Pete Rouse.

When the President landed in Cannonball, his first order of business was to meet with youth for a roundtable discussion about the many challenges of growing up on the reservation from poverty to homelessness. “The worst is over,” said the President, and remarked that neither he nor the First Lady came from wealth, but said that anything was possible and that “the future holds anything.”

Sometime after 4:00 PM the President and the First Lady entered the wačhípi circle to cheers and a song of encouragement song by the Grand River Singers. The President greeted the people in hesitant Lakȟóta, “Haú mitákuyapi [Greetings my relatives],” and 
spoke for only eleven minutes, about the improving nation to nation relationship that exists between the federal government and American Indian first nations, and giving Indian Country the resources to meet the needs of the youth. 

The President spoke of, “returning control of Indian education to tribal nations with additional resources and support so that you can direct your children's education and reform schools here in Indian Country.”

Chairman Archambault offered the President a star quilt and Mrs. Archambault offered the First Lady a shawl on behalf of the people of Standing Rock and Indian Country. Dancers were divided between the men, women, and the youngest to exhibit their living culture. “The pow-wow was a surreal experience. As we sat there, I explained to him the different dances,” said Archambault. When the Chairman voiced his doubt that the President would actually visit Standing Rock, the President replied, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”

As a result of his visit, the President invited the youth panel to visit him in Washington D.C. and play basketball on his court. He immediately challenged his Cabinet to do all they can in their power and authority to do all they could in Indian Country, and he has established a native youth initiative with a focus on education.

When the youth traveled to the White House, they saw all the gifts from Standing Rock to the President and First Lady on display. “The Youth realized that the President’s visit meant more to him than just an afternoon on the reservation. He genuinely cared about the youth. And the youth were inspired to become productive members of their communities,” said Chairman Archambault.

Coolidge vacationed in the Black Hills. During his visit he was honored with a Lakȟóta name.

The last time a president met with members of Standing Rock for a cultural exchange like this was in 1928 when President Calvin Coolidge met the Lakȟóta in the Black Hills, there, Coolidge was gifted with the name Matȟó Čhuwíksuya (Bear Rib), in honor of one of the great Huŋkphápȟa Lakȟóta leaders. 

President Obama was honored with the name “Black Eagle” by the Crow Indian Nation in May, 2008.

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