On Wednesday, April 8, First Lady Michelle Obama said Americans need to do more to ensure Native Americans overcome the ravages of the trauma they have received in the past few centuries.
While acknowledging that many of the social ills present on today’s reservations, she asserts that the country as a whole participated in creating those ills and they must participate in the solution.
“Folks in Indian Country didn’t just wake up one day with addiction problems. Poverty and violence didn’t just randomly happen to this community. These issues are the result of a long history of systematic discrimination and abuse,” she told the audience.
In the speech, Michelle also described meeting with a group of young people from the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. Each of the Native youth faced their own set of obstacles: watching loved ones fall into drug abuse, struggling to balance school with homelessness, and even experiencing the loss of classmates to suicide.
Still, Michelle said, the kids stood persevered , working to create better lives for themselves, their loved ones, and their tribe.
Ms. Obama presented a picture of Native history often neglected by mainstream discourse–from forced relocation and abuse within Native boarding school programs to laws stripping Indians of their right to celebrate culture, heritage, and religion.
“Given this history, we shouldn’t be surprised at the challenges that kids in Indian Country are facing today. And we should never forget that we played a role in this. Make no mistake about it–we own this,” stated Ms. Obama.
Michelle’s call to action comes as yet another display of the Obama administration’s dedication to uplifting Indian Country and restoring what has been taken from them along the United States’ bloody warpath of oppression.
The Lakota People’s Law Project’s mission follows the same thread of preservation, touched on by the First Lady.
We are dedicated to conducting research and outreach in order to connect with Natives and facilitate the changes to build sovereignty and tribal capacity.
In particular, we are working towards autonomous, tribal-run family services that will prevent Native children from being removed from their families and tribes to be put in non-Native foster care as a form of revenue for the state of South Dakota.
We are deeply inspired by Michelle Obama’s words and motivated to continue our efforts in Native Country parallel to hers and the Obama Administration’s As Michelle so eloquently stated, “We all need to work together to invest deeply–and for the long-term–in these young people…These kids have so much promise–and we need to ensure that they have every tool, every opportunity they need to fulfill that promise.”