Native Village Youth and Education News
February 1, 2009 Issue 194 Volume 3


Tribes turn out for inauguration events
Written by S.E. Ruckman
Condensed by Gina Boltz, Director, Native Village Publications

Tulsa, Okla. – American Indians who attended Barack Obama's Presidential inauguration returned home from Washington D.C. tired but exhilarated.  Thousands of Indians had traveled to celebrate inaugural events sponsored by tribes, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), and the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). These included a powwow, reception and the American Indian inaugural ball that drew around 3,500. Their eyewitness comments characterized the inaugural events as “historic,” “awesome,” “wonderful” and “amazing.”

 “I’m really excited to be here. This is a really important part of history," said Andrea Ebona-Michel, Tlingit, Director of Elders Program for Tlingit and Haida peoples. " Everybody’s happy. Everyone has hope … it is on everyone’s face...”

Choctaw Chief Greg Pyle compared the inauguration to another historic event – one that happened in Germany nearly twenty years ago.  “I see this almost like the Berlin Wall coming down…this is a world event,” he said. “This has never happened before and people are so proud up here.”

Margaret Knight, Laguna Pueblo and director for the Association of American Indian Physicians, said the event linked the tribes together in a new viewpoint of Washington. “It was a mass of people," she said. “We were on the mall and I wanted to shed tears there were so many people all gathered together with a sense of goodwill. It was real emotional.”

“It (inauguration) was like out of a movie,” said Joyce Matthews, chaperone of the Comanche Nation princess. “There were no cars allowed downtown, rooftop snipers and loads of security.”

“The majority of Native Americans left their eagle feathers home and brought their colorful wardrobes of mixed Pendleton colors and evening gowns,”  said Former Cherokee chief Joe Byrd.  “Throughout the air, for a few days, the crowd of 2 million were as cautious and humble as I have ever seen a D.C. (Washington) crowd.”

Tribes strongly supported Obama throughout his campaign. The president ran on an Indian platform that promised increased interaction between president and tribes. Obama’s agenda also included strengthening tribal sovereignty, improving Indian education, economies and health care.

After seeing the inaugural events, Byrd came back to Oklahoma with a powerful realization. “I’m taking home...hope that one day during my lifetime, the world will witness the swearing in of a Native American president,” he said. “It made me very proud to be an American Indian.”

Photo and Article contributions by Vance Blackfox

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