CANNON BALL, N.D. - President Barack Obama became the third sitting American president to visit an Indian reservation Friday when he participated in the Cannon Ball Flag Day Celebration at Standing Rock reservation June 13.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is located in North and South Dakota. While the people of Standing Rock are often called Sioux, they are members of the Dakota and Lakota nations. The term Sioux dates back to the 17th century and was a term French traders used.
Chairman Dave Archambault II greeted Obama by quoting Sitting Bull, who was a tribal chief of the Sitting Rock Indian reservation, who said, "If you have an honest man in Washington, send him here. I want to talk to him."
Archambault said Obama's visit would have pleased Sitting Bull and that no other president has come close to helping Indian Country more than Obama has.
Six students from the Lakota immersion program sang the Sioux Flag Day song to the president and first lady Michelle Obama in Lakota and youth groups danced for the president and first lady in front of hundreds of onlookers.
Obama thanked all the veterans in the crowd and those who have walked on whose flags were proudly displayed at the powwow grounds.
"Thank you and to your families for your extraordinary service," Obama said. "We are very, very grateful."
Obama also said throughout history, the U.S. often did not give the nation-to-nation relationship between the U.S. government and Indian nations the respect that it deserved. He said he promised to be a president who would honor the sacred trust, respect the sovereignty of Indian nations, uphold treaty obligations and work with Indian nations in the spirit of true partnership, in mutual respect, to give the children the future they deserve.
"My administration is determined to partner with tribes, and it's not something that just happens once in a while," Obama said. "It takes place every day, on just about every issue that touches your lives. And that's what real nation-to-nation partnerships look like."
He also said the powwow was not just about celebrating the past but looking to the future and about keeping the sacred trust alive for the next generation - the children.
"So here today, I want to focus on the work that lies ahead," Obama said. "And I think we can follow the lead of Standing Rock's most famous resident, Chief Sitting Bull. He said, 'Let's put our minds together to see what we can build for our children.'"
Before he spoke, the president and first lady met with a group of young people who spoke about the challenges of living in two worlds, both "Native" and "American." He said that while there are challenges for Native American youth, challenges that he was familiar with, the kids should not give up.
"There's no denying that for some Americans the deck has been stacked against them, sometimes for generations," Obama said. "And that's been the case for many Native Americans. But if we're working together, we can make things better. We can give our children a better future. I know because I've talked to these young people. I know they'll be leaders not just in Indian Country but across America."
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