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Ethete man receives call and letter from President Obama

May 20, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

A Northern Arapaho tribe member didn't think he would get a response from President Barack Obama after writing to him about issues on the Wind River Indian Reservation, but he did. Steve Willow, of Ethete, received a letter in response from the president, and soon after that he got a phone call from the White House.

A nervous Willow was on hold for more than 10 minutes and spoke with several staff members from the White House before finally hearing the president's voice on the other end of the line.

In the short 15-minute phone call, Willow told the president about himself and growing up with his grandparents and the Northern Arapaho tribe. They talked about the concerns Willow had raised in his letter.

"He said he doesn't get many letters from those who are concerned about their people," Willow said. "He said that's what he really liked, and that's why he responded."

Willow said they also talked about law enforcement on the reservation, high crime rates, lack of programs for the elderly and youth, and corruption and embezzlement issues.

"He said that's definitely going to get addressed," Willow said, adding that the president said embezzlement and corruption are big problems across the United States.

Although the conversation was short, the president didn't hang up until he had encouraged Willow to write to him again. They also spoke about a possible future visit to the reservation despite, Willow said, the president's light-hearted comment on Wyoming being a Republican state. Willow said he thanked the president for taking the time to talk to him.

"I feel really good because someone important has gotten my message about the people that I care about," Willow said.

In his letter to Willow, the president wrote, "Native Americans' dynamic spirit and heritage are integral to our Nation's rich history and essential to our future prosperity. ... To improve living conditions and ensure fair representation, I am committed to strengthening and building on the nation-to-nation relationship between the United States and tribal nations."