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Sisseton Is Still Waiting for President Obama

Over the last decade, across Indian Country there hasn’t been a more influential figure in America such as Barack Obama, as a then 24 year old who had experienced several state campaigns I had no idea what was in store for me. My first encounter with the Senator from Illinois was a very low key speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, a speech echoed on the steps of the Illinois State Capital years later as he announced his bid for President of the United States of America.

Beginning his grassroots movement he said; “…Where North, South, East and West come together that we’re reminded of the essential decency of the American people -- where we came to believe that through this decency, we can build a more hopeful America.”. I, like many young voters was very intrigued by his charisma and proactive outlook on American politics and democracy. I ate every word with a smile on my face and signed up immediately to be a part of such a movement my generation had yet to experience. I was recruited by Obama for America and brought on as Area Captain of the Primary Campaign, bringing along with me a few handfuls of volunteers ranging from grade school kids to respected elders. We collectively hit the ground running, not only canvassing our local tribal community but also our non-native friends and neighbors. With literature and stickers in hand, my group of eager young Americans began what would be a pivotal role in this “grassroots movement” now emphasized as being an important aspect of the election process.

With Hillary Clinton as our Democratic opponent our work was definitely set ahead of us, in a county holding 5 delegation points we knew exactly how important it was to stay positive and reflect our optimistic belief in our candidate. Throughout South Dakotas’ primary activities we were able to travel to not only 1 but 3 events the Senator had scheduled. I was very adamant to my volunteers that as long as they stayed active and pursued every goal set, I was going to do everything I could for each of them to have their own experience in meeting the then candidate. Volunteering in Watertown was our first official event, in which we were all able to shake hands with Mr. Obama and have small conversations with him. I and two others were also awarded stage passes at the Sioux Falls Rally for what they heard to be a very successful first event of the day in Watertown SD. Another week or so later I was able to travel with my youth volunteers to Aberdeen where our candidate was making his last stop appearance during his primary race, my youth workers were beyond excited as they were able to meet the Senator and shake his hand as he arrived and departed the town hall meeting. Our local Jr. Miss Sisseton was also in attendance even getting a picture with him, my then 10 month old even got in on the action and got his opportunity in the spotlight as I passed him into the arms of Mr. Obama, a picture capturing that moment will be cherished forever.

My youth workers also got to experience what an election headquarters feels like when we were guided through the area office, even being thrown onto the phone banking system. During all of our efforts we remained hopeful and stayed true to our candidate and defended him throughout our community facing not only racially based discrimination but also the usual political attacks associated with television ads and radical opposition. Election Day quickly approached bringing not only excitement but anxiety along with it. After the polls closed I took my youth workers to the local Dairy Queen to watch the results come in. One counties results coming in after another, our efforts seemed impossible as they projected Hillary Clinton as South Dakotas’ choice. Roberts County results finally went up on the board at the County Courthouse, with Mr. Obama gaining 5 delegation points defeating Mrs. Clinton by 104 votes. Although our candidate was defeated statewide, the points he received from our county alone was enough to ensure his Democratic nomination. With South Dakota being the last stop on our now Presidents 2nd term travels, we are reminded of our victory and our role in American history.

I would like to personally invite Mr. Obama to Sisseton SD, assuring not only his role in the grassroots movement, but to show appreciation and importance of voter participation. Our story is one of excellence and a true accolade of the American drive and determination expressed through patriotism and faith. As First Americans who, young and old, accomplished what was thought to be impossible, Mr. President We Have Been Waiting For You.

Born and raised on the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota, Renville is a very proud member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. She currently residse in Agency Village, SD. She is the owner and sole proprietor of Nazaze' Online Media Consulting.