July 18, 2014 - 7:56 AM | by Our Mother Tongues
Last month the President and Mrs. Obama visited Cannonball, North Dakota, on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation for an afternoon during Cannonball's annual Flag Day Wacipi, or celebration.
Cannonball is one of eight community districts on the sprawling reservation that spans the North and South Dakota border and is nearly the size of Connecticut. The Obama's were met in Bismarck, ND, by ND Senator Heidi Heitkamp who accompanied them by helicopter to Cannonball, where the first couple sat down at the local school with six youth leaders from across the reservation to hear their stories of growing up in a rural community that has long struggled to create adequate jobs for the reservation economy. The young people shared their pride in their Lakota and Dakota culture and language, and their experiences growing up attending ancient religious ceremonies once outlawed by the federal government, as well as stories of their dreams for the future, and of the many challenges they've faced in their young lives -- including losing friends and relatives to suicide, and of of parents' and loved ones' struggles with addiction. The first couple was greeted by thunderous applause upon entering the Wacipi, where crowds had been waiting since late morning for their arrival after being bused to the event and passing through Secret Service security checkpoints. Dancers and drum groups from across the Dakotas were waiting to perform intertribal social songs for the Obamas, and the five year-olds from the Sitting Bull College Language Nest were on hand with their teachers Thipiziwin Young and Tom Red Bird to sing the Lakota Flag Song.