Bernie Sanders Knows

Bernie Sanders Knows ... by Fawn Sharp, President, Quinault Indian Nation
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Ask any American politician which people have the lowest average income and the chances are you’ll get a wrong answer.

Bernie Sanders knows.

Ask which ethnic group has the shortest life expectancy, the highest major disease rates, the highest incarceration rates, the fewest education opportunities or the smallest per person investment by the federal government and the response will very likely be incorrect.

Bernie Sanders will get it right. Every time.

Why does Senator Bernie Sanders know these things about Native Americans?

He knows because he cares enough to know.

All across the United States Native American Tribes and their citizens are standing up to be counted as supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders for the next President of the United States.

Why? Because Bernie Sanders respects and values tribal members as Americans and as people with rich heritage who have made enormous contributions to this country, but who have been mostly abused and neglected in return.

Senator Sanders believes the United States needs to support and work with us to help us improve our standard of living. He agrees with the principles established in the U.S. Constitution, which clearly support the right of Indian Nations to self-govern and have sovereign jurisdiction over our lands. He actively promotes measures to achieve justice for our people.

Former Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black once said, “Great nations, like great men, should keep their word.”

Senator Sanders believes this is a principle that helps define true greatness as well as justice in any society. Yet it is a principle that America has failed to abide by in its relationship with tribes. The treaties established between the United States and Indian Nations all across this country have all been violated by the federal government, one-by-one. And federal cutbacks in meeting their trust responsibilities to tribes continue to be violated today.

Our relationship improved under the Obama Administration, although cutbacks continued in critical areas—causing hunger and suffering at the hands of the Republican congressional majorities. Most people in this country have no idea how much suffering continues on Indian Reservations today as a result. Bernie does.

The anti-environmental positions of Congress have been a blatant example of bad governance and treaty violation. Tribes are dedicated to protecting the natural heritage and restoring the fish and wildlife of this country, which are being threatened by such impacts as pollution, habitat destruction and climate change. Senator Sanders will fight against these forces. He took a clear and adamant stand against the Keystone Pipeline, for example, and he will stand with us against other irresponsible activities by the fossil fuel industry and other polluters. No one will work harder to help usher our country into the clean energy generation.

Senator Sanders has committed, in writing, to support the tribes, our sovereignty and our objectives. His stated platform on tribal sovereignty is: “Native American tribes should have sovereign control over their lands. Native tribes should have jurisdiction over crimes committed on their lands.”

We will not tolerate the invasion of non-tribal lawbreakers onto our lands. Whether they be drug smugglers, thieves, or whatever, we need to have the ability to arrest and prosecute anyone who violates the law on Indian land. Senator Sanders will stand behind us on this.

He co-sponsored the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, which would give each tribal government jurisdiction over domestic violence crimes and provide funding for tribal criminal justice systems and victim services.
Senator Sanders knows our substandard healthcare systems must improve. He acknowledges the racism that exists against the tribes. His platform reads, “The history of gross mistreatment of Native Americans should be brought to and maintained in the public’s attention. Stereotypes and slurs against Native Americans should be discouraged and denounced.” We are a proud people, who want to be good neighbors, and work with others to build strong, sustainable economies and a healthy environment. We can do that with the support of President Bernie Sanders.

He has made his position clear, saying that, “Healthcare for Native Americans should be improved to better address the health issues that affect them. Native Americans experience disproportionately high rates of particular health problems , and also face challenges in receiving effective healthcare.” He has a platform we can believe in.

Senator Sanders is honest and exceptionally sensitive to the social, political, economic, and racial inequality that has sharply divided and demoralized our Great Nation and has articulated a clear vision for restoring the soul of our crumbling democracy.
Two years ago, a study from Princeton University penned by researchers, Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, made the bold statement that we no longer live in a democracy. Asking "[w]ho really rules?" they made a very compelling case that over the past few decades America's political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into a system of "Economic Elite Domination," where wealthy elites wield most power.

Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two concluded that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters. The Citizens United Decision and other abuses in campaign financing by rich power brokers like the Koch brothers underscore the validity of their findings.

"The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy," they wrote, "while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."

The case could easily be made that the rich have always wielded an inordinate amount of power in this country, which flies in the face of democratic principles and has been at the root of such transgressions of justice as treaty violation and election manipulation. Ironically, democratic principles existed among the tribes on this continent thousands of years before the United States was established.

So one could reasonably ask if the United States ever truly has had a true democracy. One thing is certain. There has been progress, and it has come at time when the people of the this country arose and consistently demanded it.
So, considering the fact that we all want a country of the people, by the people and for the people, there clearly is need for a political revolution.

For the average citizen it may not be apparent that our democracy has slowly and completely faded out of existence. Not for Senator Senators. Through the three decades of power mongering by the elite and wealthy, he has been a front line General and seasoned veteran in the war to defend, protect, and advance our democracy and the sacred ideals of social, political, economic, and racial equality. It motivates, inspires, and drives him every day to honor the pledge he made in raising his right hand, so many decades ago, to defend the U.S. Constitution and to give us something beyond a hallow and silent voice - a real path to restore and reclaim our democracy.

We have great faith that Senator Bernie Sanders will be a great President.

Fawn R. Sharp is the current President of the Quinault Indian Nation in Taholah, Washington. Her past positions included managing attorney and lead counsel; and staff attorney for the Quinault Indian Nation, administrative law judge for the Washington state Department of Revenue – Tax Appeals Division, Quinault Tribal Court Associate Judge, and Counsel for Phillips, Krause & Brown.