Yesterday, President Obama composed a letter to the Solen High School Boys’ Basketball Team located on Standing Rock Reservation wishing them success in the regional tournament championship game they will play tonight. The letter is the latest outreach the President has made to Native youth and the Lakota.
“I have been inspired by the talent and determination I’ve seen in young people across the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, and I know the same drive has played a part in your success this season,” wrote the Commander in Chief.
Chase Iron Eyes, founder of Last Real Indians and Lakota People’s Law Project’s attorney, shared a photo of the correspondence on his official Facebook page. Alongside the picture, Chase transcribed a gracious message from Standing Rock Nation Councilman Cody Two Bears, “I am honored to serve the amazing community of Cannon Ball District on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.”
President Obama was touched by the youth he met during his June 2014 visit to Standing Rock. He has since described his talks with the children as eye opening and admitted listening to the difficulties Native youth must endure brought him to tears.
“I love these young people. I only spent an hour with them. They feel like my own. And you should be proud of them–because they’ve overcome a lot, but they’re strong and they’re still standing and they’re moving forward,” he said during the visit.
The Obama family later received a group of Native youth for a November luncheon in Washington D.C. He remains committed to facilitating progress in Native country, introducing a series of initiatives such as Native Youth Community Projects, Generation Indigenous, and a National Tribal Youth Network at December’s Tribal Nations Conference.
“I know throughout history, the United States often didn’t give the nation-to-nation relationship the respect it deserved. So I promised when I ran to be a president who’d change that–a president who honors our sacred trust, and who respects your sovereignty,” the president stated.
The Lakota People’s Law Project is encouraged by the latest heartwarming token of respect and takes it as a signal of hope that the leader of the United States remains engaged in Native issues.
The Obama administration has also done more than just send letters and give speeches as last week, it released updated ICWA guidelines that take states such as South Dakota to task for trying to circumvent this important law. Eric Holder’s Department of Justice vowed to ramp up its enforcement of ICWA and lately it intervened in a federal case in South Dakota on behalf of two Indian tribes who assert the state of South Dakota continues to ignore Indian rights in child custody cases.
While, it is refreshing to see a leader acknowledge Natives so actively, we want to see more than just words as much work remains in the effort to restore the Lakota people — and by extension all indigenous people — to their rich and proud heritage.