Friday, May 23, 2008

Crow ask Obama to support indigenous peoples

Crow ask Obama to support indigenous peoples

By Jodi Rave of the Missoulian

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

generations more.'

Reach reporter Jodi Rave at 800-366-7186 or


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