I was wondering whether or not President Elect Barack “Black Eagle” Obama was going to start showing American Indians some attention in his transition team. I was happy to read in Indian Country Today that President Elect Obama has created a new position, called “First Americans Public Liaison.” The position sounds like something of a Press Secretary/Ambassador, but not much is known about what the position will actually do.
Showing that this isn’t a hollow gesture meant to appease Native supporters, Obama has actually picked a Native to be the First Americans Public Liaison. It’s a pretty novel idea as far as Washington policy toward Natives goes. Wizipan Garriott, of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, apparently cannot comment on the news of his new job. But the phrase “aimed at honoring a nation-to-nation relationship with tribes” keeps popping up.
This is really good news for Natives. The policy of the previous administration left, um, something to be desired. As Jesse Jackson put it, “The President explained. You just didn’t understand. Sovereignty is sovereignty. You understand? It’s like in sovereignty. If you are on a reservation, you have been soverized. Your Ph.D. is in soverbication. You understand? I don’t think you understand.”
Cheap shots aside, Natives haven’t been very high on the list of things that Presidents care about much over the years. Obama seems to have a different priority list. First Americans Public Liaison, for as little that is known about it, hints at a more informed, far less indifferent approach to relations between the Federal Government and Tribes.
Wizipan Garriott looks like one hell of a selection, too. Garriott, 28, was the director of the native vote outreach for the Obama Campaign. I have one of those nifty “First Americans for Obama” signs up in my window, in fact. Garriott, or Wizi as his friends call him it seems, has a blog on the Community Blogs on the Obama site. It hasn’t been updated in a while, but the background is good for anybody curious about what “Wizi” has in mind. The post on the Indian Health Service is a must-read. Indian Country Today gives a better summation of First Americans Public Liaison Garriot. It’s just pleasing to see a more nuanced policy towards Natives in action.
And before I forget: Congratulations, Wizipan!