Native American tribes across the United States have donated over $1 million to Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. According to USA Today, tribal governments have donated more to Obama than any other candidate currently running for office. To compare, Mitt Romney has received only $3,000 from tribal organizations.
The president’s efforts to consult tribal leaders have not gone unnoticed in Indian Country. Obama has held three tribal summits since his inauguration, consulting tribal leaders and experts on issues concerning sovereignty, education, and health care. The Tribal Law and Order Act, aimed at decreasing crime in Native American communities, was signed into law in 2010. Obama also included new benefits for American Indians in his health care reform.
In late 2009, Obama signed the Native American Apology Resolution – the first federal apology to Native Americans. While the resolution meant “to officially apologize for the past ill-conceived policies by the U.S. Government,” its signing was closed to the press. Native American media outlets criticized President Obama for not publicly signing the Resolution. Many felt that his actions shielded the Apology from national discourse, as Lise Balk King discusses in this article.
King notes that while the event lacked the media coverage and national attention it deserved, the Apology Resolution could potentially serve as the turning point in Native American and U.S. Government relations. Obama has provided a forum for tribal dialogue and has made efforts to improve conditions in Indian Country. While the Apology Resolution proved to be a missed opportunity to openly apologize for centuries of failed government policies, Obama has been an ally to Native Americans in many other respects.