Contrite Obama Allocates $3 Billion to Indian Tribes
Byline: Joseph Curl, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Big Chief Barack Black Eagle Obama on Thursday was reunited with his adoptive father, the Crow Nation leader who dubbed him Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuushish - He Who Helps People Throughout the Land.
The president, seeking to pay off on promises made on the campaign trail, had gathered leaders of 387 federally recognized American Indian tribes, and among them was Hartford Sonny Black Eagle Jr.
The 75-year-old Crow tribe leader and his wife of 57 years adopted Mr. Obama in May 2008, when the Democratic presidential candidate was busy locking down the Western states that would soon help him win the nomination.
Mr. Black Eagle, a man of very few words, said just three when asked how his adopted son has turned out.
He done good, the tribal elder from Montana said as he smoked a cigarette on the sidewalk in front of the Department of the Interior.
Inside, a third of the nation's Cabinet secretaries presided over a day-long conference to discuss economic development, housing, education, health care and the environment with the Indian leaders.
Despite pressing business on the economy, health care and the war in Afghanistan, Mr. Obama dropped by twice, to both open and close the conference. Not unexpectedly, the president decried the treatment of native Americans during westward expansion, when settlers swept over their land and pushed them onto reservations, often on barren land.
Few have been more marginalized and ignored by Washington for as long as Native Americans - our first Americans, he said.
It's a history marked by violence and disease and deprivation. Treaties were violated. Promises were broken. You were told your lands, your religion, your cultures, your languages were not yours to keep. And that's a history that we've got to acknowledge if we are to move forward, the president said.
Although he never said the words I'm sorry, he promised that his administration would do better than past ones.
I know that you may be skeptical that this time will be any different. You have every right to be and nobody would have blamed you if you didn't come today. But you did. And I know what an extraordinary leap of faith that is on your part, Mr. Obama said.
As a candidate, Mr. Obama worked hard to secure the Indian vote, reaching out to the small population - just 1.6 percent of America - as part of a political strategy during several critical primary battles in Western states.
While primary opponent Hillary Rodham Clinton ignored the small states, Mr. Obama pulled out big wins in Montana and South Dakota, where the Illinois senator hired former operatives of onetime Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle who had deep connections to Indian Country. …