Paying attention pays off for Obama

WASHINGTON – If Sen. Barack Obama is elected president and can fulfill even half of the lofty promises he’s made to Indian country to support sovereignty and funding for education, health and housing, life will surely improve for the nations.

Perhaps because of his own diverse heritage, Obama seems to have empathy for Native issues.

Born in Hawaii of a Kenyan father and American mother, Obama grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia. He earned a law degree from Harvard in 1991, where he became the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. After graduating, he worked in civil rights and taught law in Chicago, where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

In 1995, well before entering politics, Obama wrote “Dreams from My Father,” a memoir whose audio edition won a 2006 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album. In the book, Obama links his maternal family history to American Indian ancestors and distant relatives of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy during the
Civil War.

From the time Obama announced his candidacy, through the primary battle against Sen. Hilary Clinton and continuing through the election campaign, Obama has paid close attention to Indian country and has taken the time to visit tribes often.

His efforts have paid off in endorsements from hundreds of tribal leaders. For example, the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, which represents 16 tribes, endorsed Obama after Sen. John McCain rebuffed the tribes’ invitation to meet with them.