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A Pragmatic Look at Tribal Participation in Non-Native Elections: Mountains, Winds, and Abraham Lincoln the Gay, Woman and Minority Hunter

Gyasi Ross on voting in non-Native elections
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An Indian Tribe—an autonomous Nation, comprising Natives, that has existed on this continent since time immemorial—deferring to a political party is like a mighty glacier conforming to the howling wind. It simply should not happen. Instead, that mountain has been there since the formation of the earth cannot be shaped by the wind that comes and goes and blows in different directions depending on the day. The wind goes around it; indeed, the wind, as loud as it may howl, conforms to the mountain. The two major political parties come and go and blow in different directions depending upon the season; they are fickle, and will sell their mother to stay in power. Native Nations are the mountain that has been here since before the formation of this infant Nation and will continue to be here after this Nation collapses due to excess, consumerism and bad karma. It is therefore backwards for Native Nations to bend to the fickle will of political parties. To wit, the Republican Party has changed personalities umpteen times. Keep in mind, at one time they were the party of Lincoln, (arguably) freeing the slaves and then moving to Nixon, the President that passed extremely positive policy for Tribes and honored treaties to now…if there was a movie about the Republican Party today, it would be Party of Abraham Lincoln: Gay, Woman and Minority Hunter.

With very few exceptions, it would be very hard for a Native Nation to justify supporting a Republican candidate because most Republicans are freaking hateful rednecks and would take away America’s contractual obligations with Tribes (oftentimes called “treaties”). That’s not honorable, and Republicans simply have not been honorable in their dealings with Tribes (or anybody other than rich white men) for quite some time. But Republicans are not alone in their constantly changing personalities. Democrats have changed personalities too—moving from the progressive party of FDR’s New Deal to racist Dixiecrats to Johnson’s Great Society to Clinton’s stripping away of welfare for impoverished, single moms (and NAFTA, which took away working class jobs for Americans). And now, we’re back to something that sorta resembles FDR Lite. Obama has put the “Emo” back in “Democrat”—he actually has some feeling and tries to help real people. Thank God—it’s about time Democrats stopped trying to out-Republican the Republicans. But that doesn’t mean that Democrats won’t switch again next year when it becomes politically expedient to do so.

Therefore, Tribes must be more nuanced and demanding when it comes to supporting political candidates. We cannot participate in elementary school politics anymore wherein we either sit down at the Republicans' lunch table or the Democrats' lunch table. We’re too cool for that—we don’t need their tables. Sovereignty demands that we play grown up politics and recognize the Native Vote’s influence—whether giving money or turning out voters—and stop giving any of these fickle political parties’ unconditional support. With very few exceptions (like Paulette Jordan, Jon Tester and Barack Obama—websites below), they are not our friends; they surely wouldn’t do the same for us. Neither party. We’ve got to demand results. P.S. If you can, please donate to the below campaigns. These folks are undoubtedly friends to Tribes. I ask this as a personal favor—even five bucks. Especially Paulette Jordan—for those of you that do not know, Paulette is a powerful and dynamic Coeur d'Alene sister running for Idaho’s House of Representatives. She is a traditional woman, a great mom, and a heckuva basketball player. nativevote.orgbarackobama.comjontester.comjordanforidaho.comGyasi Ross is a member of the Blackfeet Nation and his family also belongs to the Suquamish Nation. He wrote a book called Don’t Know Much About Indians (but i wrote a book about us anyways) which you can get at He is also co-authoring a new book with Robert Chanate coming out in the Summer of 2012 appropriately called The Thing About Skins, and the website and publishing company for that handy-dandy book is (coming soon). He also semi-does the twitter thing at

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