Crow ask Obama to support indigenous peoples
By Jodi Rave of the Missoulian missoulian.com
May 20, 2008
The Crow Nation welcomed Sen. Barack Obama on Monday
afternoon before thousands of people, marking the
Democratic presidential candidate's first campaign
visit to a U.S. reservation.
'It was exciting - you felt like you were a part of
history, where you can be a part of change that
matters, that we matter,' said Del Laverdure, a Crow
tribal attorney who attended the rally on the Crow Reservation.
Obama spoke to a estimated audience of 4,000 people,
mostly Native, who arrived at Crow Agency in
southeastern Montana . The event was open to the public
at the tribe's Apsaalooke Veterans Park . Crow elder
Barney Old Coyote, one of the most decorated Native
veterans in the country, provided the opening prayer.
Before Obama spoke, Crow Tribal Chairman Carl Venne
asked the presidential candidate to support three
proposals on behalf of Indian Country, including
defending indigenous rights worldwide, appointing a
Native to lead the Interior Department and honoring
treaty concessions. Obama was invited to visit the
tribe's homeland after leaders of the Crow, or
Apsaalooke, decided to endorse the Illinois senator last week.
When he took the stage, Obama announced he was proud to
have been adopted - in Crow tradition - by the Black
Eagle family. And he was also given a Crow name, which
translates as 'That Person Who Goes Throughout Our Land
And Tries To Help People,' said Laverdure.
Obama's visit to the Crow Reservation marks an unusual
presidential campaign foray into tribal lands. Bobby
Kennedy is arguably the last known presidential
candidate to do so, campaigning on South Dakota 's Pine
Ridge Reservation in 1968. He was assassinated the same
year in California .
In welcoming Obama, Venne prepared a statement:
'This park is dedicated to our leaders who have fought
for the United States in every war since World War I,'
Venne said. 'You know, during wartime bullets don't
discriminate based on the color of your skin. Currently
there are over 40 Crow men and women fighting in the
deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan . We honor all those
serving today, and we also honor Senator Barack Obama
as the man who can bring them home safely.
'We want change in America today,' Venne said. 'Instead
of pouring billions of dollars into Iraq and
quadrupling foreign aid to Africa , we need to spend
money taking care of our needs at home, especially the
forgotten first Americans.'
Venne asked Obama to join more than 140 other countries
who have adopted a worldwide declaration to respect and
establish human rights standards around the world.
The United States , Canada , New Zealand and Australia -
countries with significant indigenous populations -
voted against the declaration last September.
'We want America to be the leader it should be around
the world, and we ask that you, Senator Obama, commit
to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples,' Venne said.
As part of his campaign policy on Native issues, Obama
has said he will create a tribal presence in the White House.
'We respectfully ask for tribal representation in
formulating the policies that affect us - a tribal
adviser to the president in the White House, regular
meetings with tribal leaders and tribal officials in
key positions. We hope to see during your
administration the first Indian secretary of the
Interior. It is only right.'
Crow Nation leaders asked Obama to visit their
reservation, where tribal communities reflect the
living conditions experienced by most large, land-based
tribes in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains .
The Crow live in the fourth-poorest county in the
United States. Tribal citizens depend heavily on the
Indian Health Service for 'life or limb' health care.
And the unemployment rate hovers at 47 percent.
Venne asked Obama to consider multimillion-acre land
concessions tribes made during the U.S. treaty-making
process, which ended in 1871. Tribes like the Crow gave
up tens of thousands of acres in exchange for education
and health care.
'In Indian Country, we want new and better programs in
health, education and housing,' Venne said. 'We don't
want to have to leave our homeland to get a job or a
place to live. We want to have places for our children
and grandchildren to live.
'When we send our children out into the world for their
educations, we want them to be able to come home again.
We have protected our homeland for seven generations,
and we ask your help in protecting it for seven
Reach reporter Jodi Rave at 800-366-7186 or firstname.lastname@example.org.