February 9th, 2009
04:07 PM ET
9 years ago

Native American tribal issues to be a priority for Pres. Obama

The first lady was given a Native American shawl during her visit to the Interior Department Monday.

The first lady was given a Native American shawl during her visit to the Interior Department Monday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama intends to add a senior policy adviser for Native American affairs to his White House staff shortly, first lady Michelle Obama revealed Monday.

The first lady made the announcement while speaking to employees at the Interior Department - the latest stop in her ongoing meet-and-greet tour of federal departments and agencies.

"Barack has pledged to honor the unique government-to-government relationship between tribes and the federal government," she said. The new senior staffer "will be tasked to work with tribes (on) issues such as sovereignty, health care (and) education - all central to the well-being of Native American families and the prosperity of tribes all across this country."

Repeating a theme from her earlier visits to the Education and Housing and Urban Development departments, the first lady also said she wanted to thank to the Interior Department's staffers at the outset of the new administration.

"The issues that you're working on, as you know, affect us all," she noted. As "stewards of America's greatest assets, from our parks and forests to mountains and rivers, you're charged with sacred task of ensuring that America's resources are used responsibly and protected for future generations.

"As you begin the hard work of taking this department into a new era of excellence, I wanted to come by again to simply say thank you."

The first lady indicated that the Interior Department will play a critical role in one of the administration's "highest priorities - securing America's energy future." In an economic downturn, she said, "sound energy and environmental policies are going to help create thousands of jobs."

Obama also referenced the first family's recent weekend visit to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains.

"Barack and I and the girls, as you may have read, just had a little retreat away. We visited Camp David for the first time and got to experience the beauty of those grounds, and it was just wonderful to get a bit of a break and to spend some quality time as a family in nature," she said.

Obama concluded her remarks by noting that the Interior Department has "great leaders in Secretary (Ken) Salazar and President Obama."

"I love to say that," she added a few seconds later to thunderous applause and laughter.

Her appearance marked the first time in more than 12 years that a first lady has visited the Interior Department.

Filed under: Michelle Obama • President Obama
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Putin still invading Alaskan airspace between Palin's ears

    Ula Nejad, Sacramento, Ca:

    Excuse me, Spawn Insanity devotee, you're the moron. If you bothered to actually read the entire article rather than spew your ignorance after just looking at the picture – (Typical right-wing nutjob behavior) – you'd realize that the Native Americans gave her that wrap (blanket). Idiot!!!

    February 9, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  2. Angie in Pa

    Great Job our President and First lady is doing! About time someone Paid some Attention to the Native Americans thats how our President is FOR ALL OF THE PEOPLE!

    February 9, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  3. Obama 2012

    To "JOE KILOZ" ....shhhhhhhhhhhh...be quiet!! Thank you!!

    February 9, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  4. johnny the boy

    Why does she, Obama's wife, always have a condescending smirk?

    She looks like her part well, elitist.

    February 9, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  5. Sarty

    Appoint a Native American from Montana. I remember they did a ritual for
    Obama's win in the primaries and general election

    February 9, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  6. Shari, NY

    Good initiative. By the way, in case someone did not know – the first lady is wearing a shawl given to her by American Indians.

    February 9, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  7. Leimomi Martin

    Thank you Michele for being so supportive!

    February 9, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  8. Wes

    Go Obama! This is wonderful news.

    February 9, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  9. a little sad

    @southerncousin February 9th, 2009 4:54 pm ET

    Everything is a priority with him, except investigations of George Soros, ACORN and the unions. Kinda makes you wonder doesn't it. Is he pandering? You betcha, big time.

    Sounds like he has his priorities straight. Sorry, cuz....

    February 9, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  10. William A. Schaedler from St. Louis

    Why should this surprise me? I thought it would have been done on January 20, 2009. A day that will live in infamy.

    February 9, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  11. An American

    With all the pressing issues before us Obama is concentrating on Tribal Government and ours. God – we really need your help.

    February 9, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  12. William A. Schaedler from St. Louis

    Why should this surprise me. I thought ut would have been done on January 20, 2009. A day that will live in infamy.

    February 9, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  13. FreeNLovIt

    To Bill..

    I cant believe you said that about them. How would you like to be EXTERMINATED and shoved off to stay in the North Pole? Please have some sympathies on them. They've come a long way.

    February 9, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  14. kt

    We and other "europeans' invaded this land and stole it from the Native Americans – a few "beads" doesn't really count – we owe them, frankly, everything – so hopefully this new and wonderful administration will provide some much needed energy and attention and support to the tribes. Perhaps the needs of the Alaskan natives can be taken up very soon, as Ms. Palin seems more inclined to ignore the needs of her state and people for her own callous ambitions. Go Barack and Michelle.

    February 9, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  15. Canaman

    Wao!! Some people are angry that a president actually remembers the Indians? That is sad. Despite what whites have done to them in the past, they are still hated? Just remember that this was their land, their home; your ancestors invaded their land like weeds or robbers.

    February 9, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  16. rob

    Oh yes GObama.

    February 9, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |


    February 9, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  18. Paul, Riverside CA

    It had to take an African American President and First Lady to recognize the REAL AMERICANS!

    Buffalo Soldiers they are.

    February 9, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  19. AC

    As a Native American I am insulted that she is wearing our attire incorrectly and is visiting the department that represents us, not the people who represent us!

    February 9, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  20. Shirley in California

    Speaking as a black woman whose grandmother was half Cherokee (and who I loved dearly) thank you President Obama and First Lady. Everyone is being recognized in this cabinet as Americans and not just minorities.

    February 9, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
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