ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Though major candidates for president failed to appear at the recent Tribal Leaders Summit and Presidential Candidates Forum, Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke from the Green Party discussed issues in a teleconference.
Questions posed by tribal representatives and urban Indians were tough, but both appeared well versed on facts as they spoke to the summit.
Hattie Kauffman, CBS correspondent, served as moderator.
The first question went to activist and vice presidential hopeful Winona LaDuke, White Earth Band of Ojibwe. Asked what economic development programs the pair would initiate if elected, LaDuke said, ?What we support is environmentally and culturally supportive development efforts ? that would bring about a living wage, so people don't have to work two jobs to survive.
"We would also like to see wind energy for the new millennium."
Presidential candidate Nader concurred, adding, "I began this campaign by stressing the necessity to respect tribal governments and change the history of promises made, promises broken.
"We are going to educate the public on all this, and on recognizing the importance of reassertion of tribal jurisdiction."
Noting the current budget for Indian Health Care is $2.4 million and to bring Indian health care to the national funding norm would require $15 million, tribal leaders wanted to know what Nader would do about it.
"First we need to be sensitive to tribal traditions in health care. Also we should re-adjust the budget - it is going haywire on massive military arms systems that aren't needed anymore, if they ever were - and allocate that money to health care for all people through out the country," he said.
LaDuke added, "You and I know that if you get your teeth pulled, you should be able to get your false teeth within the same year."
Asked what she thought of the absence of George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore absence at the summit, LaDuke said, "I think that both Republican and Democratic parties take people for granted. I think that is dangerous, that is why Ralph and I are running. What we need to do is draw people's attention to the issues.
"We need reconciliation and reparation. There is no reason that Indian people should not have publicly held land returned to them, whether it is the Black Hills, or the Chippewa National Forest. There is no reason that a federal government that took those lands illegally should not return those lands."
Nader said the major parties have been giving "ritualistic lip service" to Indian people for years. "They're telling you, ?You've got nowhere to go.' We're telling you, ?Oh yeah, this year you've got somewhere to go. You've got the Green Party to go to.
"With respect and a whole set of human rights, the minute these two parties like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee look-alike parties start telling people who strive for justice that they have nowhere to go, that is the time for us to go somewhere. That is what this whole Green Party effort and Winona and myself are about."
He went on to say legal pressures need to be applied in the courts, forcing them to follow treaties. "There is no substitute for the mobilization of the First Natives ? substitute. We've got to get down to where the children and the parents are and where people actually live, to make changes."
Nader asked for support in his party's efforts to educate the public on jurisdiction. "The toxic dumps, the ravages that are taking place on reservations, it all is very close to home."
Both supported cabinet-level positions for Native American representatives with access to the president. "We do call them tribal nations, don't we?" Nader concluded as tribal leaders applauded.