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American Indian Delegates Weigh in on the DNC

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BOSTON - Three delegates related the best parts of the 2004 Democratic
National Convention.

Gay Story Hamilton, Mohegan, is "Pledged At Large" among Connecticut's 71
Democratic delegates. She chairs the tribe's Council of Elders.

Duane "Chili" Yazzie, Navajo, is one of New Mexico's 41 delegates. He is
president of the tribe's Shiprock Chapter.

Patricia "Patsy" Whitefoot, Yakama, is a Party Leader Elected Official in
Washington state's 108-member delegation. She is the party secretary for
White Swan, on the Yakama Reservation.


Gay Hamilton: Overwhelming. I'm a big basketball fan and I'm used to being
in an arena with crowds screaming and yelling, but I ain't seen anything
like this.

Chili Yazzie: The place is packed. It's hard to get around on the floor.
It's a massive party atmosphere. They play rock and roll songs like "Johnny
Be Good." People are dancing, swinging away, cheering.

Patsy Whitefoot: It's huge. Banners are going across all lit up: "A
Stronger America" in all white. The Washington state delegation is up
front, 30 feet away from the main platform. It's been pretty exciting
because of our location.


Hamilton: Barack Obama (Illinois state senator; candidate for U.S. Senate).
Obama was riveting. Everybody listened to him, and hollered and screamed
when he finished.

Yazzie: Charlie Rangel (Representative, New York) at the American Indian
Caucus. Charlie Rangel talks from the heart. He was talking about
situations and issues like he knew us intimately. He drove home with some
really great encouragement -- fire and brimstone!

Whitefoot: Barack Obama. He was electrifying. He spoke to everybody's heart
about bringing our country together. There's got to be an Obama in every
community -- people who are working to bring us all together.


Hamilton: Handshake. Senator Leahy of Vermont. He was the target of a bad
slur from Vice President Cheney. So I somehow wanted to shake his hand.

Yazzie: Photos. Senator John Edwards and Al Sharpton. Edwards is the
highest ranking of everybody who I had my picture taken with. I caught Al
Sharpton in the afternoon before he gave his grand slam speech. He was very
gracious to let me pose with him.

Television. I was sitting on the platform behind the podium on Monday and
Tuesday. They rotated, three groups per night. The first night I was there
with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson for two hours. The second night I
was there when Teresa Heinz Kerry was speaking.

Whitefoot: Handshake. At the American Indian Caucus I met four veterans who
were with John Kerry in Vietnam. It made me think of my own uncles who were
in the military, and my sister at home who is a veteran. You think of
veterans who are no longer here and the struggles that they had.

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Hamilton: The clambake at Boston's American Indian Center. The fun part was
Indian people from the West were a little hesitant about eating lobster.
And they all tried it. Everybody had a good time.

Yazzie: The American Gas Association lunch for New Mexico Senator Jeff
Bingaman. It was at the exclusive Excelsior restaurant. I crashed the
party. The lady at the door said, "Your name's not on the list." I said,
"My senator will not turn me away." Lo and behold, Senator Bingaman comes
out. "Chili, come right in," he says. I had lobster soup, a big salad, and
the chicken. Everybody else was having halibut, but I'm not a big fish

Whitefoot: The American Indian Center's clambake. To be able to have clams
and lobster was wonderful. It's just like Indian people to say 'welcome,
come down and share a meal with us.' It made me feel like home because I'm
from near the Pacific Ocean.


Hamilton: A surprise to me was how many notable political personages came
to our caucus. The Indians have demonstrated that in certain states our
vote can be crucial to winning. As they spoke, I'm sure I had a smile on my
face. It was so delightful to hear people coming to us and saying how
important our vote is.

Yazzie: The caucus is pretty serious. People get down and talk about

Whitefoot: What I got from the leaders is we just can't give up. There's
work we need to do to move forward our agenda as tribes, and to communicate
what the issues are in our communities.


Hamilton: It moved me when they quoted President Kennedy on the big screen.
It was the speech where he said the torch is being passed to the next
generation. Every time I see something that has to do with President
Kennedy, it's still very emotional for me.

Yazzie: We think well of Bill Clinton, and especially Hillary. And we
certainly revere President Carter. But also we rally around Kennedy. I
think for the most part Native America is loyal to Kennedy.

Whitefoot: When I saw the children singing the national anthem in the
Tohono O'odham language, it made me think about my grandchildren and my
children. It brought tears to my eyes because we're working so hard to
bring back our languages.


Hamilton: I heard three important numbers at the caucus: 11, 2 and 1. We
need 11 Democratic representatives to be elected in order to gain control
of the House. We need two more senators to control the Senate. And we need
one party to elect John Kerry as President. When I get home I'm going to
volunteer to help a Democrat who is running for Congress in my district. I
want to make him one of the 11.

Yazzie: On Tuesday night Howard Dean said, "The Republicans can talk about
guns, God, and gays. We're here to talk about health, education, and jobs."
That really sums it up.

My commitment to making sure that Kerry - Edwards wins has been
crystallized. I guess the program and the way they developed it is working.
It's created a momentum that makes me feel like, 'Yeah, damn it, I want to
help.' I'm going to go home and do what I can to get people registered and
make sure that we turn out to vote. Of the 18 swing states, 11 have major
[tribal] populations. The Indian vote could very well make the difference
in 11 of those 18 states.

Whitefoot: My grandmother used to say to me, 'The white man never rests.'
We've always got to be protecting our inherent rights as people and our
treaty rights, because the white man and the whole technology, people are
just working all the time.

The 15th legislative district is on the Yakama reservation. At home I'm
doing voter registration, getting on the telephone talking to people about
the importance of voting. We all need to be working. Even getting our own
family members to vote. That's what I'm doing at the dinner table, talking
to my grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Educating them. It's work. But
that's what our grandparents and our ancestors prepared us for.