Welcome to North Dakota, Mr. President. The fact that you intend to do this at all has great historical significance. As you know, sitting presidents don't tend to visit Indian reservations. The last one to do so was President Bill Clinton in 1999 — Wounded Knee and Pine Ridge in South Dakota. And the one before that was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936 — the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina.
The bloated entourage of the modern Imperial Presidency is hard on any welcoming community, but in view of the sad history of federal troop presence in Indian Country, the sudden arrival of such stern and obsessive federal firepower is likely to create some discomfort and misunderstanding. And all the instantaneous gawking (by national media reps, presidential advisers and the usual presidential camp followers) may upset the people who actually make their lives on the reservation.
But I am especially eager for you to read Thurston Clarke's "The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days that Inspired America." It's a day-by-day account of the last three months of Robert Kennedy's life, before he was assassinated in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968. It turns out that RFK spent a significant amount of time during that pell mell campaign on Indian reservations — much to the bewilderment and (eventually) rage of his campaign staff.
Just weeks before the crucial California primary, he chose to fly to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, where he spent a whole day talking with an Oglala child named Christopher Pretty Boy in the family's modest cabin. His staff members were tearing their hair out, of course, arguing that there was no political gain in spending time with American Indians. But RFK had moral courage and a great passion for justice. Within a year, both Kennedy and Pretty Boy were dead. [Jenkinson, An open letter to President Obama from Indian Country]Former Lee reporter for Indian Country, Jodi Rave covered President Clinton's visit to Pine Ridge in 1999 and the United Nations passage of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She followed lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell, keeping Indian Country apprised of the litigation, ratification process, and settlement of the lawsuit bearing her name and is now writing a book about it. Her investigative work contributed to the passage of the Violence Against Women Act.
Tim Giago is blasting the Cobell payments: his column at Indianz is linked here.