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First Lady Obama speaks to Native youth at White House session

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama met with youth from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in June 2014. Photo from Center for Native American Youth / Facebook

First Lady Michelle Obama delivered remarks to Native youth at a conference at the White House this morning.

Obama shared details of her visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe last summer. She said she was inspired by the youth she met on the reservation who are working hard to succeed despite facing numerous obstacles.

"Folks in Indian Country didn’t just wake up one day with addiction problems," Obama said, according to her prepared remarks. "Poverty and violence didn’t just randomly happen to this community. These issues are the result of a long history of systematic discrimination and abuse."

"Let me offer just a few examples from our past, starting with how, back in 1830, we passed a law removing Native Americans from their homes and forcibly re-locating them to barren lands out west. The Trail of Tears was part of this process," Obama added. "Then we began separating children from their families and sending them to boarding schools designed to strip them of all traces of their culture, language and history. And then our government started issuing what were known as 'Civilization Regulations' – regulations that outlawed Indian religions, ceremonies and practices – so we literally made their culture illegal."

"And these are just a few examples," the first lady said. "I could continue on like this for hours."

Today's Creating Opportunity for Native Youth event builds on Generation Indigenous, the initiative that President Barack Obama announced at the White House Tribal Nations Conference last December. Youth representatives, tribal leaders, Obama administration officials and philanthropic organizations discussed ways to improve the lives of young American Indians and Alaska Natives.

As part of the initiative, the White House is hosting the first-ever Tribal Youth Gathering this year. Details have not been announced but it will take place sometime in the summer.

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