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Native leaders fill six Democratic convention posts

DENVER - The standing committees of the Democratic national convention include six American Indians after January elections, an unprecedented number that national party chairman Howard Dean said reflects the strength-in-diversity of Democrats and their convention.

The convention, to be held in Denver in August, will nominate the Democratic candidate for president. Three committees to the convention - the Credentials, Rules and Platform committees - will develop recommendations and submit them to convention delegates for review and approval. Each committee has 186 members, with 25 on each nominated by Dean and elected by the DNC executive committee.

''The record turnout and enthusiasm we've seen for our Democratic candidates is a clear sign that Americans trust Democrats to bring much-needed change to our country,'' Dean said, as quoted in a release from the Democratic National Committee. ''These outstanding leaders reflect the great strength, diversity and energy of the Democratic Party, and I'm confident their efforts will ensure our convention ... is reflective of our shared values and our nominee's vision for America.''

Frank LaMere, Winnebago of Nebraska and chairman of the DNC's Native American Coordinating Council, said in the same release that the Democratic Party will be the champion of Indian country in the 2008 presidential election, as in previous ones. ''Chairman Dean understands that America's strength comes from its diversity, and has worked hard to make the DNC and our 2008 convention representative of our nation.''

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DNC spokesman Damien LaVera said the Native committee members will be able to assert Indian-specific priorities as the committees' work goes forward. ''Being on [a] committee of course gives you influence, so yes.''

Natalie Wyeth, press secretary for the national convention, said the Platform Committee will develop its positions in part through public meetings. The schedule of meetings has not been finalized yet but will be announced when it is, she added.

The Credentials Committee, which coordinates and monitors the selection of 4,049 delegates and their alternatives, includes Laura Harris, Comanche, the executive director of Americans for Indian Opportunity; and Carol Juneau, Hidatsa and Mandan, a first-term Montana state senator.

The Rules Committee, charged with adopting an agenda for the convention, recommending its officers and proposing its rules, includes Joe Garcia, Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, president of the National Congress of American Indians; and Cinda Hughes, Cherokee descendant and Kiowa citizen, an NCAI legislative associate and longtime advocate on disability issues.

On the Platform Committee, which will draft and recommend to the convention a so-called platform of party positions on national issues, are Chuck Hoskin, Cherokee, a Nebraska state representative; and Mark Macarro, Pechanga Band of Luiseno, the band's chairman.