Michelle Obama surprises the Gila River Indian community with a visit

Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis grasps hands in a greeting with Michelle Obama, who paid a surprise visit to the community. (Photo: Courtesy Gila River Indian News / Roberto Jackson.)

Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis posts Facebook video, calls the meeting with Obama, “one of the most memorable, proud and historic days in the recent past."

The former first lady Michelle Obama surprised the Gila River Indian Community on Tuesday. Michelle Obama met with the Gila River Governor Stephen Roe Lewis and students at the Huhugam Heritage Center and was a complete surprise to the students.

Michelle Obama had decided to stop in for a visit as she was already in Phoenix visiting the area as part of her memoir book tour. The title of her book is Becoming.

As reported in AZ Central, Obama had met with students to hear about their life on the Gila River Reservation. When a student spoke of the challenges she faced because colleges do not have a cultural support system, Obama acknowledged her.

"Being the only one is hard, and it takes a toll on you in a way that the majorities don't understand. A lot of these schools and universities don't understand that it's important to make sure that you're not just admitting the one or the two (students). You have to bring kids in in groups," said Obama as cited by AZ Central.

Shortly after Obama’s visit, Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis took to Facebook and posted a video of an inside look regarding the meeting with Michelle Obama in what he called “one of the most memorable, proud and historic days in the recent past of the Gila River Indian Community.”

Lewis thanked Obama and her staff for the hour-long visit and meeting with seven students. He also thanked the community as well as law enforcement and media involved. He commended the students for their maturity in meeting with Michelle Obama.

He revealed the meeting was meant to be a surprise and showed footage of the students with surprised looks on their faces.

He also recognized Michelle Obama telling community members in “taking our seat at the table. Our students did exactly that with her. That sat with a world leader. Someone who has sat at tables at the White House, to the United Nations to the G4 in Europe and they held their own.”

Michelle Obama - students
Students at the table with Michelle Obama. (Photo: Courtesy Gila River Indian News / Roberto Jackson.)

The students also received copies of Obama’s book and tickets to her live reading.

Michelle Obama's visit was also part of her #ReachHigher effort in which she stresses the importance of young people seeking higher education. She posted to Instagram, stating, "Today I sat down with several young people from the Gila River Indian Community in Chandler, Arizona, home to the Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh tribes. To me, these students are living proof of the power of resilience. No matter what they’re facing, no matter their circumstances, they get up every day believing that they can make life better for themselves, their families, and their peers. I believe in them, too—and I hope you do as well. This isn’t the last time we’ll hear from Samaira, Andrew, Adam, Charisma, Daniel, Karissa, and Erica. #ReachHigher"

Lewis also said the student received memories that would last a lifetime.

“It was a proud day for our people,” said Lewis in the video. 

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Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling

Email - vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com

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