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Obama visits `Indian Country` in North Dakota

AFP | Last Updated: Saturday, June 14, 2014 - 13:35

Washington: Barack Obama traveled to a Native American reservation in North Dakota, his first visit as US president to "Indian Country," where he focused Friday on education and economic development.
The president, accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama, visited the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation in the central far northern state.
The Sioux, which include the Lakota and Dakota nations, are the people of Sitting Bull, the chief famous for his victory over the US cavalry in the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn.

Ahead of the visit officials announced a series of initiatives on improving education and economic development for Native American communities.

Obama began the visit with a stop at a local elementary school, where he and his wife met with tribal children in their classrooms.

When the couple arrived at Standing Rock, dancers in colorful tribal outfits greeted the Obamas, who met with senior tribal officials.At an open air ceremony the president touted his administration`s many advances in improving ties between the federal government and Native American communities.

However "I want to focus on the work that lies ahead," Obama said. "And I think we can follow the lead of Standing Rock`s most famous resident, Chief Sitting Bull. He said, `Let`s put our minds together to see what we can build for our children.`"

Obama urged his audience to "Put our minds together to build more economic opportunity in Indian Country ... That means creating more jobs and supporting small businesses in places like Standing Rock."

He also said that a way to improve education for Native Americans "means returning control of Indian education to tribal nations with additional resources and support so that you can direct your children`s education and reform schools here in Indian Country."

His administration has "made major investments to help grow tribal economies -- investments in job training and tribal colleges; roads and high-speed Internet; energy, including renewable energy," Obama said.

Friday was also Flag Day in the United States, a low-key annual event marking the adoption of the stars-and-stripes flag in 1777. 

The reservation was festooned with flags, and Obama praised the "many Native Americans" who "have served our country with honor and with courage."

Although Friday`s visit to the reservation was his first as president, Obama has maintained close working relations with tribal leaders, including holding an annual Native American summit at the White House.

Prior to his election as president, Obama while on the campaign trail visited a Montana reservation that is home to the Crow Nation, one of dozens of registered native tribes in the United States.

The president and his wife then flew to Palm Springs, in southern California, where they will be spending the weekend.

On Saturday Obama is scheduled to meet with Democratic Party officials in the morning, then deliver the commencement speech at the University of California, Irvine.

First Published: Saturday, June 14, 2014 - 13:35

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