At the 8th annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, Byron Nicholai, of Toksook Bay, sang while Brian Cladoosby, President of the National Congress of American Indians and Chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribe, led an honoring ceremony. He [and Chief Many Hearts, Marilynn Malerba Mohegan, of Connecticut] placed a custom woven Pendleton blanket [designed by Musqueam Coast Salish artist Susan Point of Canada] on President Obama.
Later, Obama talked about some of his administration’s accomplishments: protection of sacred sites, the return of tribal lands, and new initiatives education, energy, and health care. He said federal agencies have worked to strengthen tribal sovereignty in public safety and criminal jurisdiction over violence against women. Obama also reminisced about his visits to tribal nations: the Choctaw, Standing Rock Sioux, and Alaska Natives.
Obama said he’d recently received a letter from Lindsay Early, a Comanche Indian. She told him she was in the audience in 2008 when he visited the Crow nation in Montana. She said she’d screamed as loud as she could when he pledged to hold an annual summit with tribal leaders.
“And Lindsay, I want you to know, I heard you. I didn’t forget you,” said the President. “I want everybody in this auditorium and all the folks back home in your respective communities, to know that this whole time I’ve heard you. I have seen you and I hope I’ve done right by you.”
In her letter, Lindsay Early described her realization that her destiny was in her own hands. She went on to graduate college and now teaches kindergarten at a tribal college. Obama said her example, and the stories of other Native youth across the country leave him optimistic:
“I hope I set a direction others will follow,” said Obama. “I hope I’ve given more of our young people like Lindsay and her students that sense of hope and that sense of what an incredible gift they are to this country, and that they are in control of their own destinies, and they’re going to help shape the future of the United States of America.”
The White House also hosted the second annual White House Tribal Youth Gathering, bringing together about a hundred Native youth leaders to participate
Music Courtesy of Mike Williams, Sr., via Facebook.
Corrected to add the name of the Mohegan Chief who also placed the blanket on President Obama, and the name of the artist who designed the blanket.