Obama, Clinton Woo American Indian Voters

June 2, 2008

Author: Matthew Brown and Mary Clare Jalonick

Source: The Associated Press


The purification ceremony isn't an everyday ritual of U.S. presidential politics.

The newly named Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuuxshish — better known as Barack Obama — faced east, the symbolic source of new life. His adopted Crow father, Hartford Black Eagle, prayed over him.

Afterward, they walked arm-in-arm with Black Eagle's wife, Mary, to a podium, where Obama promised to live up to the meaning of his new name: "One Who Helps People Throughout the Land."

"I want you to know that I will never forget you," Obama told the crowd, who had not seen a visitor of such political importance since Lady Bird Johnson came to the Montana reservation in the 1960s. "You will be on my mind every day that I am in the White House."

In a tight Democratic race, American Indians living in poor conditions on isolated prairie reservations could have a pivotal voice in the selection of a presidential candidate. As a result, they're hearing a lot of promises from politicians: better health care, improved housing and stepped-up law enforcement in Indian country.