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Democratic Platform includes Strong Support for Sovereignty

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BOSTON - After a three-day drafting committee meeting in Miami, the
Democratic platform has emerged with a strong affirmation of the
government-to-government relations between Indian tribes and the United
States.

The section "A Strong American Community" includes the statement, "We honor
the sovereignty of American Indians and reaffirm our commitment to
respectful and meaningful government-to-government relations."

Although the statement raised eyebrows among some elements of the
right-wing media, it reflects basic American constitutional principles,
said Gwen Carr, Cayuga, a Democratic political activist and member of the
platform committee.

"We're not making this up," she said. "This is federal law for hundreds of
years."

A plank supporting tribal self-government also appeared in the Republican
platform in 2000. President Clinton issued a presidential directive
affirming the government-to-government relationship, and even the Supreme
Court upheld inherent tribal sovereignty in its recent Lara decision.

The platform also attacks the Bush administration for what it portrays as
failures on a broad range of issues, including the Interior Department's
handling of Indian trust accounts. The "American Community" section
continues, "We must renew trust obligations that this Administration has
disregarded and must improve the education, health and job opportunities
for American Indians, who too often face terrible poverty."

The platform will be presented to the Democratic National Convention for
adoption on its second day, July 27.

In the meantime, efforts are mounting to include American Indians in the
July 26 - 29 Convention. The delegate list includes 87 Natives, who will
hold a pre-Convention conference call July 19. A large number of
non-delegate Indian leaders are also expected to attend as special guests
and speakers. Carr said that plans were under way for an address from the
floor by Tex Hall, president of the National Congress of American Indians
and chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota. She also said
a tribal leader, yet unnamed, would give a blessing for the gathering.

Pearlean Revels, vice chairman of the Lumbee Nation of North Carolina,
confirmed that she would be attending as a guest of U.S. Sen. John Edwards,
D-N.C., the vice presidential choice of presumptive Democratic Presidential
nominee John Kerry.

The Kerry campaign is also launching an outreach program to American Indian
voters, including an advertising budget for Native newspapers. The program
is under the direction of Anna Sorrell, a veteran of 20 years working for
the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal government in Montana. Sorrell
has taken a leave to work at Kerry campaign headquarters in Washington,
D.C. One of her preoccupations two weeks before the convention has been to
ensure on-the-scene American Indian media coverage.

The Democratic Convention will assemble 4,341 delegates and 671 alternates
in Boston, a compact and congested city that is bracing for traffic
nightmares. Security concerns have already caused local and federal
officials to order the closing of the main railroad station and portions of
the subway system during the convention. Many of the American Indian events
will take place in downtown hotels away from the FleetCenter convention
hall.

Carr said that the pace of Native involvement continued efforts from the
1996 and 2000 Democratic conventions. "If you say nothing else, say that
the Democratic Party and Indians have been growing together and learning
from each other over the past decade," she admonished.

Indian voters have favored the Democratic Presidential candidate heavily in
recent years, even more so in fact than the famously monolithic black vote.
But some tribes will have a presence at the Republican National Convention
in late August in New York City. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation
appears prominently on the list of corporate sponsors for the event.
Mashantucket Pequot Chief Operating Officer John Guevremont is widely
credited with drafting the Republican platform language on Indian affairs
at the 2000 Convention, which also affirmed tribal sovereignty.