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By the Native numbers

DENVER – Top party officials say this year’s Democratic National Convention is the most diverse in party history and American Indians are playing a central role in many key positions.

More Native delegates have been elected to this year’s convention than ever before. There are currently 143 self-identified Native American delegates, compared to 86 in 2004. It’s a whopping 40 percent increase.

Of the nearly 800 Democratic superdelegates, four are Native, which is believed to be the highest number of American Indian superdelegates in convention history.

The superdelegates are Frank LaMere, a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and chair of the First American Caucus; state Rep. Margarett Campbell, an Assiniboine Sioux from Montana; Kalyn Free, Choctaw from Oklahoma; and Laurie Weahkee, a Zuni/Cochiti/Navajo voter registration advocate.

At least six Natives also sit this year on key DNC committees, serving in important decision-making positions.

Laura Harris, executive director of Americans for Indian Opportunity, is a member of the Credentials Committee, which is charged with coordinating issues around the selection of delegates and alternates to the convention.

Montana state Sen. Carol Juneau, too, is part of the Credentials Committee. She was formerly the president of Blackfeet Community College, and now serves as treasurer of the Montana Indian Democratic Council, as vice chair of the Montana Democratic Party and on the State Executive Board of the Montana Democratic Party.

Mark Macarro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, serves on the Platform Committee, which is responsible for drafting and recommending a proposed national platform for approval at the convention.

Oklahoma state Rep. Chuck Hoskin, another Platform Committee member, serves as chair of the Oklahoma State House Democratic Caucus. He formerly represented Craig and Nowata counties on the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council.

Joe Garcia, president of NCAI, sits on the Rules Committee, the body responsible for many DNC provisions, including: Proposing the permanent rules for the convention; adopting the proposed convention agenda; and making recommendations for permanent convention officers.

Cinda Hughes, a descendant of the Cherokee Nation and member of the Kiowa tribe, is another member of the Rules Committee. In 2000 and 2004, she served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. She is currently a legislative associate with NCAI where she advocates on behalf of tribes with federal agencies and Congress.

Natives participated in multiple DNC events throughout the week. The Navajo Nation Code Talkers presented the nation’s colors to kick off the convention. And David Gipp, president of United Tribes Technical College was scheduled to be a speaker on day two of the event, which carries the theme “Renewing America’s Promise.”

Meanwhile, Robert Moore, a Rosebud Sioux tribal councilman and vice president of the National Congress of American Indians, was scheduled to sing the National Anthem Aug. 27 before thousands of convention attendees.

Many other Natives, young and old, are participating in the convention via journalism and advocacy efforts.