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Already mixed-race, Obama becomes an Indian too

May 19, 2008 | 10:36 pm

Sen. Barack Obama, campaigning on an Indian reservation in Montana today for the Big Sky State's June 3 Democratic primary, got a new name and necklaces for each of his wives.

Stopping at a park in Crow Agency, Mont., he became the first presidential candidate to visit and address the tribe, which adopted him as an honorary member. As drums drummed and tribal members ululated, the Illinois senator was guided by his new tribal "parents" and named "One who helps people throughout the land."

With The Times' Nicholas Riccardi watching, the tribal chairman gave Obama several beaded necklaces "for your wives."

“I only have one wife,” the candidate hastened to add. “I don’t want to get in trouble when I get home. I can have new parents, but no new wives.”

Obama struggled with the tribe’s....

...native name, Apsaalooke. “What an enormous honor it is to be here with the Apsaa, the Apsaaloo….”
“I was just adopted into the tribe,” he reminded the crowd. “I’m still working on my pronunciations.”

Obama pledged to appoint a senior advisor on Indian affairs and hold an annual meeting with tribal leaders. Audience members in tribal headdresses, robes, jeans and cowboy hats cheered wildly as he also promised to improve services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

He ended his short talk with on an unusual personal note, speaking of growing up as one of the few black youths in Hawaii. “I was looked at as something of an outsider," Obama recalled. "So I know what it’s like to be on the outside. I know what it's like to not always be respected or be ignored.

“A lot of the times you feel like you've been forgotten, like African Americans have been forgotten or other groups in this country feel forgotten,” Obama told the crowd.

“I want you to know: I will never forget you….That’s the commitment we’re making to you and now that I’m a member of the family, you know I won't break my commitment to my brothers and sisters.”

--Andrew Malcolm