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Campaign 2004: Catching up with Dennis Kucinich

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ICT: So, how is the campaign going?

Kucinich: We had a very good meeting in Farmington (N.M.) ? We talked about all the concerns that we share. I spoke about defending Indian sovereignty, about the broken promises by the U.S. government and the need to look at all the promises to see that the promises are kept. To systematically review all the treaties that have been broken. And to find a way to make good on the commitments that have been made to Native people. About stopping the exploitation of Native American land. About protecting the environment. About enabling a large investment for Native people in wind and solar energy production which would be a wonderful way to grow Native American economies and at the same time minimize the kinds of damages being done right now by uranium and coal and about protecting the rights generally of Native Americans. To look at education and to look at a whole range of concerns including the protection of sacred sites.

ICT: Of all the candidates vying for the U.S. presidency, you have made Indian issues important. You have a Web site devoted to American Indians. Why?

Kucinich: Throughout my life I've been aware of the deficiencies of U.S. government's treatment of Native Americans ? You have to remember the American Indian movement. One of the places where it had a lot of support was Cleveland, Ohio where I am from. There's been a very active Native American community and over the years I've stayed in touch with all the concerns that Native American people have and have never failed to discuss them and to speak to them. When Native American leaders came to Congress a few years ago, I was one of the few members of Congress that showed up to greet them. So, I realize what the U.S. must do. There is a lot we must do to heal this country from the breach that this government has created between ourselves and Native Americans by the exploitation that has taken place with taking land and resources, the breaking of treaties ? And so I want to bring a healing hand to that ? One of the ways we can do this is to heal the ways of centuries of exploitation and indifference. That will be very spiritually powerful for the U.S. to do that. We must do that.

ICT: You said you learned about Indian issues in Congress and perhaps earlier.

Kucinich: Much earlier, when I was a child.

ICT: Do you remember a specific event?

Kucinich: I think the book about Wounded Knee was very powerful. But there have been many other things written about the suffering of Native people. About the massacres that have taken place over the centuries ? about how our whole culture was misinformed about our obligations to Native Americans ? there are all the stereotypes that our entire culture was raised in ? And now, we are at a point where we must right the wrongs that have occurred and I am prepared to do that. I am prepared to do it in a way that is open-hearted and compassionate and truthful.

ICT: You cite certain issues you want to work on for Native Americans. Why those issues? How do you identify these issues?

Kucinich: First of all, let me tell you that the spiritual practices of Native Americans including the Navajos have always been of interest to me; the connection between Mother Earth and Father Sky. The realization of the sacredness of the water, of the land, of the mountains, of the sky and the stars. The way in which all these elements flow in us and through us. The manner in which the Native American philosophy, spiritual philosophy, of the connection with nature is something that I'm very close to and have been for a good part of my life. So, when you have that as part of who you are it's easy to be able to connect with your brothers and sisters. When I got through speaking today one of the elders shook my hand and looked and me and said "you're one of us." What he meant was my remarks revealed an understanding of the spiritual connection which Navajos have ? not just an appreciation for it but an understanding of the relationship between spirit and matter and the role in which spirit plays in the rights of Native American people.

I've been coming to New Mexico for nearly a quarter of a century, 24 years. And throughout that time I've had the opportunity to have many discussions with Native Americans about the responsibilities about a Native American perspective and to reference about what U.S. should be doing in terms of changing its policies.

ICT: So are you saying that your candidacy is more educated about Indian issues than any of the others?

Kucinich: Actually, it comes from the perspective of Native Americans ? My position on environmental matters relates directly to an understanding of the sacredness of the air, the water, the land, and the mountains, which is what so many Native American spiritual teachings are about. It is recognizing the connections we have in all this. That is my political philosophy. It derives from a sense of interconnection and interdependence. How we're all in this together. Native Americans understand that. And so there is a sense that my spiritual perspective and political perspective melt easily into discussions that relate to concerns of Native American people.

ICT: You've obviously visited a number of tribes and have come to learn about issues in Indian country. All tribes are different, their issues are different some things are more important than others ?

Kucinich: That's true ? now Navajo and Hopi are together in a lot of environmental issues as you know.

ICT: Yes ? but if you could tell us what is the common, most important concern of all Indian tribes, what would it be?

Kucinich: Truth. The truth about the U.S. government treatment of Native Americans. That is the consistent concern. The truth must be told and when the truth is told the American people will open up their hearts and begin the healing process. And my role is to be the truth teller.

ICT: What kind of response are you getting from Indian county to your candidacy so far?

Kucinich: It's been with open arms. People are grateful that someone cares about them to learn and to share and to speak about the issues. Especially a presidential candidate. That's where it becomes very important.