Blanket ceremony wraps up Obama’s final Native American conference

Tribal leaders honored President Obama with a blanket during the eighth annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, the president’s last.

The president said he was “proud of what we’ve been able to do together.”

Among the achievements, Obama cited “restoring more than 428,000 acres [173,000 hectares] of tribal homelands to their original owners,” approving clean-energy projects and investing in high-speed internet access for Native American communities.

Before he spoke, Obama participated in a traditional honoring ceremony in which he donned a colorful robe and a conical hat. Obama didn’t keep the hat on for the entire ceremony, but described the ceremony as a moving reminder of “the great friendships that we’ve developed.”

Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians, said the tribes wanted to “thank and honor” the president with the gift for Obama’s commitment to Native Americans over the course of his presidency.

The president said the creation of the White House Council on Native American Affairs in 2013 brought about a permanent institution with a long-term, Cabinet-level focus on American Indians.

“I’ve heard you, I have seen you. And I hope I’ve done right by you,” Obama said. “And I hope I’ve set a direction that others will follow.”

This article draws on reports from The Associated Press.