Obama visits Arctic community to discuss Native issues

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Obama Takes a Boat Tour of Kenai Fjords Park in Alaska


President Barack Obama on Wednesday will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit a community north of the Arctic Circle, a trek the White House hopes will bring into focus how climate change is affecting Americans.

After meeting tribal leaders and fishermen in Dillingham, home to the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery, Obama will fly into Kotzebue, an Arctic town of about 3,000 that is battling coastal erosion caused by rising seas.

The stops, at the end of a three-day tour of Alaska, are also aimed at cementing Obama's legacy on improving ties with Native Americans. He has also traveled by foot and boat to see glaciers that are receding quickly due to climate change.

President Obama's visit to Alaska:

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President Obama visits Alaska
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Obama visits Arctic community to discuss Native issues
US President Barack Obama reaches out to pick up a puppy belonging to musher John Baker (2nd R) in Kotzebue, Alaska on September 2, 2015. Obama blazed a new trail as US leader on September 2, becoming the first to head above the Arctic circle, to urge US citizens to take swift action against climate change. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama holds a puppy while visiting musher John Baker and his family in Kotzebue, Alaska on September 2, 2015. Obama blazed a new trail as US leader on September 2, becoming the first to head above the Arctic circle, to urge US citizens to take swift action against climate change. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama greets well-wishers upon arrival at Dillingham Airport in Dillingham, Alaska on September 2, 2015. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks to the media before boarding a boat for a tour of the Kenai Fjords National Park on September 1, 2015 in Seward, Alaska. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama looks at the ice cream selection while chatting with children during a stop at the Sweet Darlings icecreme shop on September 1, 2015 in Seward, Alaska. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama looks at the ice creme selection at the Sweet Darlings icecreme shop on September 1, 2015 in Seward, Alaska. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
DENALI NATIONAL PARK, AK - SEPTEMBER 1: A view of Denali, formerly known as Mt. McKinley, on September 1, 2015 in Denali National Park, Alaska. According to the National Park Service, the summit elevation of Denali is 20,320 feet and is the highest mountain peak in North America. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama greets patrons at the Snow City Cafe on September 1, 2015 in Anchorage, Alaska. Obama is heading to Seward, Alaska to visit the Exit Glacier and tour Kenai Fjords National Park. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama asks if staff and press want anything before ordering at the Snow City Cafe on September 1, 2015 in Anchorage, Alaska. Obama is heading to Seward, Alaska to visit the Exit Glacier and tour Kenai Fjords National Park. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama arrives at a lookout while hiking near the Exit Glacier on September 1, 2015 in Seward, Alaska. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama looks at the pauses to admire the view while hiking near the Exit Glacier on September 1, 2015 in Seward, Alaska. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama walks across the tarmac after landing at Seward City airport on September 1, 2015 in Seward, Alaska. Obama is in Seward to visit the Exit Glacier and tour Kenai Fjords National Park. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Marine One, carrying US President Barack Obama, approaches the Seward City airport on September 1, 2015 in Seward, Alaska. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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Obama will say in Kotzebue that his administration has found dozens of new ways to work better with Native Americans - program fixes with small price tags but rich potential, a White House official told reporters.

The president boasted this week that he will have visited more tribal communities than any previous sitting president by the time he leaves office. He has said he wanted to hear concerns from "everyday Alaskans" on this tour.

In Kotzebue, Williie Goodwin, 71, said he hoped Obama would see the impact climate change has had on the migration patterns of animals.

But he said he does not want the federal government to restrict mining and energy production because jobs in those sectors will keep the North going.

"That is going to be sustaining our communities," he said.

"I can't shut the door on them and say, 'No offshore and no mining'."

In Dillingham, some residents are fighting the proposed Pebble Mine project that they say could hurt their salmon fishery.

"We're not opposed to mineral extraction, but salmon must always come first," said Jason Metrokin, president of the Bristol Bay Native Corporation.

Obama made a huge symbolic gesture to Native Amercian communities and Alaskans at large at the start of his trip by renaming Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America, as Denali, its traditional Athabascan name.

The historic nature of the visit inspired Juneau café owner Marc Wheeler to cough up 45,000 airline miles to get to Dillingham for the chance to lay eyes on Obama.

"He travels in this bubble. Hopefully, he can escape it a little bit," said Wheeler, whose café is serving 'Barack'y Road' ice cream in honor of the trip.

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