"Native Americans, the first Americans, have always been a rich and vibrant part of our national heritage," Obama said.
Obama said he is committed to improving the federal government's relationship with American Indians and Alaska Natives. He cited the first ever White House Tribal Nations Conference, held last November, the recent signing of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act as part of the national health care reform law, and his appointment of two tribal members to White House positions.
One of them, Jodi Gillette, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, attended the powwow on behalf of the Obama administration. She was joined by Michael Strautmanis, another White House official.
Obama is the first sitting president to address the Gathering of Nations. In 2000, former vice president Al Gore attended the powwow while he was campaigning for president.
For more on Obama's attitudes, see Obama Refuses to Use G-Word and "Moral Compass" in America: The Story of Us.