A striking highlight of President Barack Obama’s inaugural parade was the participation of dozens of Native American Indians. The mounted riders were resplendent in their traditional ceremonial feathered head-dresses, and other participants, colourfully dressed, followed on a float. Reports indicated that the Indians had been specially invited by the President, and that honoured guests included Hartford and Mary Black Eagle of the Apsaalooke (otherwise known as ‘Crow’) American Indian Nation in Montana. A report by Michael Laris in The Washington Post of January 20, 2009, ‘Native American family to see adopted son sworn in,’ stated that Hartford and Mary Eagle had “…adopted Barack Obama in a traditional Native American ceremony in May, when the candidate made a campaign stop at the vast Crow reservation.” The report went on to say that “…an adoption is no slapdash honorary degree or campaign prop. It’s a revered compact that has linked the first family with five generations of First Americans… Hartford waved smoke from burning cedar needles over Obama… with a bald eagle fan… Afterward, Obama told reporters he was deeply moved by the ceremony, and he vowed that if he won, he would have his new parents come to the White House… Hartford is a spiritual healer and had been given the crucial, sacred responsibility of christening Obama with a Crow name… ‘Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuxshish’ was the name Hartford chose… and translates as: ‘One Who Helps People Throughout This Land.’”
The adoption is of profoundly spiritual significance. The name ‘Apsaalooke’ means ‘children of the large-beaked bird.’ Feathers of an eagle were used in the ceremony. The eagle is regarded by American Indians as a sacred bird which is closer to the Almighty Creator, and its feathers are used for spiritual purposes. The majestic Harpy Eagle in Guyana is said to be the largest and most powerful eagle in the world. It is regarded in South America as being the sacred bird of the Amazon.
The adoption may also be considered to be of legal and constitutional significance. Some American Indian tribal law and order codes provide for legal adoption of adults, formally effected by way of a decree or similar legal record. A few reports suggest that the adoption of President Obama by Hartford and Mary Black Eagle was merely an honorary one, though the report in the Washington Post indicates that a “revered compact” was made between the parties. President Obama appears to have set a landmark precedent.