With #PrezRezVisit, Native Americans express cautious hope ahead of Obama’s historic visit to Indian Country


Native American dancers from more than 20 reservations in North and South Dakota perform before the arrival of President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
President Obama is making his first visit as president to Indian Country on Friday, but the historic trip to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation is shadowed by a long history of distrust among Native Americans, Katie Zezima wrote Friday from Cannon Ball, N.D.:

But despite the advances that have been made, many Native Americans retain a deep skepticism and distrust of a federal government that historically has reneged repeatedly on agreements and, many believe, treated Native Americans as an afterthought for generations.

“There’s been a bad track record. Our fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers have gone to Washington, and there’s been no promises made and no promises kept. That’s why we’ve not trusted the federal government,” said Tex Red Tipped Arrow Hall, tribal chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in North Dakota.

Ahead of Obama’s remarks later this afternoon, Twitter became the focal point for a public conversation among Native Americans about the historic potential of the presidential visit — as well as complaints that the “mainstream media” continues to ignore the plight of Native Americans.

And no doubt, the looming possibility of U.S. military action in Iraq — which continues to deteriorate under the pressure of advancing insurgents — has drawn significant media attention away from Obama’s arrival in North Dakota Friday.

But online, Native Americans have been determined to keep the conversation alive. More than 5,000 tweets with the #PrezRezVisit hashtag have been sent out so far, after the trend was started Thursday by Indian Country Today correspondent Vincent Schilling.

Hours later, the hashtag took on a life of its own as Native Americans from all over tweeted messages of hope for improved relations with Native tribes, and disappointment that Obama is only the fourth U.S. president to visit Indian Country:

Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip

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