President Barack Obama is reportedly making good on his promise to visit Indian country in 2014.
The Washington Post’s Sari Horwitz has heard from officials close to the administration that Obama plans to visit an Indian reservation in North Dakota in June. Her report has been picked up by the national press, although firm on-the-record details remain elusive.
A White House official, asked to confirm the accuracy of the report, said there are no scheduling announcements to make on this matter.
Obama first told tribal leaders at the November 2013 White House Tribal Nations Conference that he planned to visit a reservation in 2014, having previously visited the Crow Nation in Montana when he campaigned for president in 2008. At that time, he was adopted into the tribe and given a Crow name, which he has fondly recalled several times during his presidency to date.
The last visit to a reservation by a sitting president was made by Bill Clinton to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1999. Before that, Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the Cherokee Nation in 1936. Robert F. Kennedy also campaigned for president on Pine Ridge in 1968 just days before his assassination.
While no firm announcement has been made regarding which reservation Obama will visit, tribal leaders are asking administration officials to consider a tour of Indian country so that the president can see firsthand the wide range of economic and social problems facing tribes.
“It would be great for President Obama to visit multiple reservations as part of a reservation economic development tour,” Michael Finley, chairman of the Confederated Tribes for the Colville Reservation and First Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians, said after the president’s November announcement. “No other president has done that, so he would have an opportunity to truly make history.”
Carole Lankford, vice-chair of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, had the opportunity to meet with the president in a small group setting of 12 tribal leaders in November. After the meeting, she said she hoped more tribal citizens would soon get to benefit from one-on-one outreach from the White House and the administration.
“There is a great need for an improved tribal-federal partnership and relationship,” Lankford said after the November meeting. “I would like to see the president visit many reservations, including my own, to really get a sense of the opportunities for engagement.”
The White House has not commented on possibility of a multi-reservation tour by the president. There are 566 federally recognized tribes in the U.S. today, many which face extreme and long-lasting poverty.