WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama ignored his own “no hats” edict Monday when he partook in a traditional American Indian ceremony in Washington.
Appearing at the White House’s Tribal Nations conference, Obama was wrapped in a wool blanket and crowned with a straw hat as a show of honor.
Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians, said the blanket was called “Rhythm of the Land.” He said there was a blanket set aside for first lady Michelle Obama as well.
As members from different tribes played drums and shakers, Obama smiled and faced an audience comprised of representatives from the 567 federally recognized tribes that were invited to attend. He removed the hat after 20 seconds or so as the ceremony proceeded.
“What an amazing honor and what a kind gesture for the honor song and the blanket and the hat,” Obama said afterward, calling the event “very moving” and a reflection of the friendships he’s developed among tribal communities.
An embroidered inscription on the blanket gave Obama’s Crow namesake, “Black Eagle,” and a description: “Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuxshish,” or “One Who Helps People Throughout the Land.”
A label identified the blanket as a product of the Pendleton Woolen Mills line.
“I have to say that I am very glad that you also have a blanket for Michelle so she doesn’t steal mine,” he said. “She would, too!”
Obama used his remarks to highlight his efforts toward improving conditions on reservations, including bolstering schools and advancing medical care.
The President has typically been wary of donning any headwear besides a baseball cap — a political lesson he imparted during an appearance at the White House in 2013.
“Here’s the general rule: You don’t put stuff on your head if you’re president. That’s politics 101,” he said when presented with a football helmet from the US Naval Academy. “You never look good wearing something on your head.”