Opinion: Far too many presidents overlook Indians in California

President Barack Obama attends the Cannon Ball Flag Day Powwow in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on June 13, 2014. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

T. Robert Przeklasa wonders why President Barack Obama hasn't met with tribes in California:
For outsiders, including the President, it can be easy to lose California Indians amid the urban sprawl that has enveloped their lands and misconstrue their success operating in two worlds as mere assimilation. However, such a misconception is both a great mistruth and tragedy. Whether for a national park or world-class resort, the people of sec-he, the boiling waters, never gave up their homeland; and while Truman and Ford enjoyed the sunshine and golfing, the Cauhilla fought valiantly against the injustice and poverty that, at times, engulfed them. After long, hard decades of struggle, the Cahuilla people are beginning to find success in ensuring their sovereignty and cultural survival.

Indeed, as President Obama enjoyed a round of golf at Palm Springs’ famous Thunderbird Country Club late Friday afternoon, tribal people gathered around a half-moon altar across the Coachella Valley for ceremony. Together with William Madrigal, Jr. and Raymond Huaute, Milanovich recently formed the non-profit Páayish Néken to revitalize the Cahuilla language across the nine Cahuilla reservations and throughout the region. The labors of earlier generations and the tireless efforts of elders, present and passed, and have ensured that traditional cultures of the people of Southern California are finding new life. At the end of the month, the Morongo Reservation will hold its 12th Annual Cultural Heritage Days with traditional foods, barbecue, rodeo, birdsinging and dancing, cultural demonstrations and workshops, followed by a night of peon games. Similar events happen in the area throughout the year.

From the Mission Indian Federation to Wallace Newman, the people of Southern California Indian Country have made important, if often overlooked, contributions to the history of Native America as a whole. Americans, especially those within Indian Country, should not overlook the Cahuillas, Chemehuevis, Cupeños, Kumeyaays, Luiseños, Mohaves, and Quechans, their culture, and their contributions. To do so is to deny the truth, forget history, and trample upon the sovereignty these Nations have preserved against incalculable odds over the centuries.

Get the Story:
T. Robert Przeklasa: Why Hasn't Obama Visited California's Tribes? (Indian Country Today 7/7)

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