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American Indians for McCain Coalition debuts at GOP convention

ST. PAUL, Minn. – John McCain’s presidential campaign announced the leaders of the American Indians for McCain Coalition at a Sept. 3 meeting in St. Paul, in time for the two-month home stretch to the November presidential election.

It is perceived that Democrats greatly outnumber Republicans in Indian country, and John McCain’s Democratic rival, Barack Obama, has pressed that perception for months now. But when McCain finally raised the flag for his Republican supporters in Indian country, they included a roster of influential figures.

At the top of the coalition’s membership are Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Northern Cheyenne, the retired Republican senator from Colorado, and Rep. Tom Cole from Oklahoma, Chickasaw, the only enrolled tribal citizen in Congress.

Both issued statements of support for their party leader.

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“John McCain has served on the Indian Affairs Committee since the first day he joined the U.S. Senate 22 years ago, twice serving as its chairman,” said Campbell, himself a former chairman of the committee in a release. “He serves there not because he has to, but because he chooses to. He doesn’t need to be educated on tribal issues, he has been working hard on behalf of Native people for a long time. John McCain is a man of honor and he will be a great President for Indian country, and all Americans.”

Cole, in the same release, added, “Senator John McCain has been a leading advocate in Congress on tribal issues for over two decades. He has introduced and championed more legislation on behalf of tribes than any other member of Congress. He knows tribal issues and, as President, he will continue to fight for tribes and uphold tribal sovereignty.”

Campbell and Cole are honorary co-chairs of the coalition. The other two co-chairs are Jana McKeag of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and John Tahsuda of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. Sam Winder of the Southern Ute and Navajo is the coalition’s campaign liaison.

Other coalition members include former BIA chief Carl Artman of the Wisconsin Oneida; former acting BIA director Aurene Martin, Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa; W. Ron Allen of the Jamestown S’Klallam; Sharon Clahchischillage and other Navajo professionals from the nation’s Washington office; Rhonda Harjo, Choctaw and Muscogee (Creek) of Oklahoma; and Ron Johnson of Prairie Island Indian Community.

A Friends of the Coalition category includes prominent Indian-issue lawyers and lobbyists Eric Eberhard, Dan Little, Tom Heffelfinger, Phil Baker-Shenk, Tom Brierton, Paul Moorehead and Jim Hall.