TRAHANT REPORTS—On Thursday night Tawna Sanchez posted on Facebook: “We did it, we won!” She won the primary election (and most likely the general) to represent Northeast Portland in the Legislature.
There are 90 members of the Oregon Legislature; 60 in the House and 30 in the Senate. (So if you are counting: That means Sanchez’ one seat equals 1.1111 percent or roughly equal to the Native American population in the state.)
“Over the past two decades, the Oregon Legislature has come to look less and less like the people it represents,” wrote Ian Kullgren in The Oregonian. State lawmakers are “overwhelmingly white — 19 percentage points whiter than the state overall.” Exactly why this seat is so important, not just to Indian country, but to Oregon and its future. (Previous: A record year for Native candidates?)
To me it’s cool that Sanchez will represent Portland neighborhoods in the Legislature. This has long been an important urban Indian city in the Northwest. (I have fond memories of visiting the late George P. Lavatta who would tell me all about why Portland was so important to Indian country.)
Sanchez will be at least the second Native American to serve in the Legislature. Sanchez is Shoshone-Bannock, Ute, and Carrizo descent. The first Native American woman in the Oregon Legislature was Jacqueline Taylor who represented Clatsop County during the 1990s. Taylor was a member of the Citizens Band of Potawatomi.
Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports.