WASHINGTON - The lead plaintiff in the class action lawsuit over trust
funds has thrown her support to incumbent Tom Daschle in his tight Senate
re-election contest in South Dakota.
Elouise Cobell encouraged all American Indians in South Dakota to register
to vote and support Daschle in the Nov. 2 election.
Daschle, a Democrat, is the Senate Minority Leader. As such, in a Senate
narrowly divided between the parties, he stands regularly accused by
Republicans of blocking the priorities of the Bush administration and
Republican leadership. His GOP opponent for the Senate in South Dakota,
John Thune, has taken to deriding Daschle for publicly embracing President
Bush - popular in South Dakota - while staving off his initiatives in the
Senate. Daschle's stock response is that he supports Bush policies that are
good for South Dakotans, and opposes those that aren't.
Daschle's political prominence and the narrow Republican majority in the
Senate have made the South Dakota showdown the most significant in the
nation after the presidential race. Despite variations in poll results, it
is considered a dead heat.
South Dakota tribes include a great many individual trust beneficiaries;
and tribes themselves have large trust holdings in land and resources.
Cobell, long active in the lawsuit nationally known by her name, said she
has always considered the reform of trust funds management a non-partisan
issue - "we have friends on both sides of the aisle" in Congress,
Democratic and Republican. But in this case, she added, Daschle's constant
advocacy for Indian trust beneficiaries has raised him above the rest -
"our brother in arms," she called him.
"Indian people now have to stand by Senator Daschle. He is in a tough
election fight and if he loses, we lose. If he wins, we win - because we
keep the man who has been there and will continue to be there for us. It's
as simple as that. I urge all Indian people to do everything possible to
ensure that when the sun rises on Nov. 3, we will still have our warrior,
Tom Daschle in the Senate."
Daschle said he will continue to use his position and influence in the
Senate to bring justice to Indian trust account holders. "Our government
should not stand idly by while thousands of trust account holders are
denied the resources they rightfully deserve," he said.