In an op-ed published Wednesday, President Obama reminded readers that he was adopted by a Native American family who gave him a tribal name during the 2008 presidential campaign.
“Six years ago, I made my first trip to Indian country,” wrote Obama in the op-ed, published by the Indian Country Today Media Network.
“I left with a new Crow name, an adoptive Crow family, and an even stronger commitment to build a future that honors old traditions and welcomes every Native American into the American Dream,” the president wrote.
While campaigning for president in 2008, Obama was given the name “One Who Helps People Throughout the Land” by a Crow couple, Hartford and Mary Black Eagle.
“I want to thank my new parents,” he said in 2008, during his visit to the reservation of the 12,000 member Crow Nation, according to a Washington Post article published at the time. “The nicest parents you could ever want to know. I like my new name. Barack Black Eagle. That is a good name!”
Obama and wife Michelle will visit the area again, the president wrote. “We’re eager to visit this reservation, which holds a special place in American history as the home of Chief Sitting Bull.”
Next week, the First Couple will visit the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota.
Obama said while there he will announce a new set of steps his administration will take to “support jobs, education, and self-determination in Indian country.”
Obama touted his creation of the White House Council on Native American Affairs. He also pointed to his annual White House Tribal Nations Conference.
“Today, honoring the nation-to-nation relationship with Indian country isn’t the exception; it’s the rule. And we have a lot to show for it,” he wrote.
Obama reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, which gave tribes more power to prosecute cases of domestic violence on tribal lands.
Obama also referenced Obamacare.
“Together, we’ve increased Native Americans’ access to quality, affordable health care,” he wrote. “One of the reasons I fought so hard to pass the Affordable Care Act is that it permanently reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which provides care to many in tribal communities. And under the Affordable Care Act, Native Americans across the country now have access to comprehensive, affordable coverage, some for the first time.”
Obama said he is troubled by high poverty and high school dropout rates among Native Americans. Poverty rates are 60 percent in some tribal areas, he wrote.
Earlier this year, Obama designated an area in Southeastern Oklahoma as one of five federal promise zones. The program, operated through the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, gives the zones first priority in certain federal grants.
“As I’ve said before, the history of the United States and tribal nations is filled with broken promises,” Obama wrote, adding that he believes that his actions have helped “turn the corner.”
“We’re writing a new chapter in our history—one in which agreements are upheld, tribal sovereignty is respected, and every American Indian and Alaskan Native who works hard has the chance to get ahead,” he wrote.
“That’s the promise of the American Dream.”