Obama visits Native Americans for first time as Pres., Ho Chunks weigh in on issues

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BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) - For the first time during his presidency, Barack Obama visited a Native American reservation to hear their concerns first-hand.

It's only the third time in the past 80 years that a sitting president has visited a Native American community.

The President came to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota to address several topics concerning Native Americans, including education, economic development and healthcare.

They're issues Ho Chunk Nation heritage preservation executive director Robert Mann say present challenges for Native Americans throughout the country.

“It shows they have concerns, and that we are still a big part of the country, that they can honor us by doing that, by coming and visiting,” Mann said in Black River Falls.

He said with high poverty and high school dropout rates among Native Americans nationally, Ho Chunks have worked to keep those numbers down.

“There's many great strides that the Ho Chunk Nation has taken to be self-supportive and we run it all ourselves. “We're very proactive and we try to help our tribal members get the training and education so they can retain a job.”

But he says diabetes has become a big problem for many Native Americans.

“We're trying to educate our tribal members and promote to have better eating more healthy, having a healthier lifestyle,” he said.

He said he'd also like to see a stronger focus on the environment.

“What I would discuss with him, is our natural resources, what we're doing to protect them.”

Mann said other challenges include getting property loans on reservation land and protecting their tribal sovereignty.

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