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Morongo chairwoman pleads for Peltier clemency

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Though the indecisive national elections provided no clear victors, Morongo Chairwoman Mary Ann Andreas proved a big winner this year.

Not a candidate for elective office, she capped off a politically active year, pleading with President Clinton to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier, over lunch in Los Angeles on the day before the election.

Andreas began the year working tirelessly for the March Proposition 1A campaign, addressed the Democratic National Convention in August and ended the campaign season lunching with Bill Clinton. She was appointed by Gov. Gray Davis to the Colorado River Water Board and somehow manages to find time to be chairwoman of the Morongo tribe.

Though a registered Democrat and Al Gore supporter, her other endorsements this year have included Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Congresswoman Mary Bono, R-Calif.

Andreas says she favors the candidates and issues that most benefit American Indians regardless of party lines. This is why she felt it was so important to ask President Clinton, with whom she has had a warm relationship, for Peltier's release.

In her pleading, Andreas said she invoked the names of South African Bishop Desmond Tutu and several other international peace and justice figures.

"He (Clinton) said that he was committed to reviewing this and eight other cases before he leaves office," Andreas says.

She, and others, are writing follow-up letters to Clinton reminding him of his verbal promises.

Andreas says she waited anxiously for the results on election night. After several hours of watching close returns she says her stomach and her head hurt so bad that she had to go to bed.

Her tribe has quite a bit at stake in this election since they supported Gore and Andreas' personal friendship with Clinton. Andreas said she feels Green Party nominee Ralph Nader played a damaging role in the election, since his vote in Florida has seemingly taken crucial votes away from Gore in deciding that state.

Andreas said she feels Nader put Indian tribes in jeopardy because of his perceived spoiler role. She has stated publicly she is alarmed by Republican nominee George W. Bush's comments on state law being supreme over tribal law.

Andreas says she is anxious because she believes the overall indecision of the presidential candidates is not good for the country.

Still Andreas says she has much to feel good about politically. On the Proposition 5 and 1A campaigns, she helped galvanize more than a half million volunteers in California to work on the respective ballot initiatives and other issues of importance to American Indians.

This fall proved a rather quiet one for California's American Indians.

For the first time since the March 1998 March primaries, Indian tribes did not have a single ballot initiative in the state. Andreas said she feels this is not because tribes have suddenly become politically inactive, rather it was because after Proposition 1A passed in March there has not been a unifying political issue for tribes to turn into a ballot initiative.

Additionally, Andreas said she is heartened by the politically active stance of many tribal leaders. She singles out Pechanga chairman Mark Macarro for praise and says she was impressed by all the work he had done on the gaming initiatives.

Reminded of the fact there is a shortage of American Indians in public office Andreas says she has no political plans of her own beyond her own tribe.

"I think that Mark Macarro should be the one to run for public office. He'd do a better job," says Andreas as she dashed off to a water board meeting.