Three Ojibwe women are running for the office of Lt. Governor of Minnesota. Unprecedented? Two would be unprecedented. Three is what the world ought to look like.
Debra Topping, Fond du Lac Ojibwe, is the latest candidate to enter the race running with the Independence Party of Minnesota.
She posted on Facebook: “After much thought, prayer, consideration and discussion I have decided to accept the opportunity Chris Seymore has offered me to be YOUR Lieutenant Governor 2018. … Who else has Minnesota’s best interest at heart than an Indigenous woman?”
Topping is an elder advocate and water protector. She is running on the Independence Party line as the running mate to a candidate for governor, Chris Seymore. He posted on social media that Topping “brings with her the blessings of Winona LaDuke.”
And one issue that will certainly be on the top of the agenda is Topping’s opposition to the construction of pipelines in Northern Minnesota. Enbridge seeks to double the size of its current pipeline to bring oil from Canada’s tar sands to markets through Lake Superior. Topping told The Progressive last year that the issue is simple. “How clear and pure do you want your drinking water?” she asked.
Just this week Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a bill that would have allowed Enbridge to bypass the Public Utility Commission (the company says it will take too long). Now the commission will continue its pipeline review.
Topping recently organized a block (line 3) party at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. At that event, she said according to the Healing Minnesota Stories website, Every day I wake up there is something to fight about,” she said “Every single day we get up and fight for our wild rice.”
The Minnesota Independence Party is a new vehicle for that sort of protest. It was once the Reform Party of former Gov. Jesse Ventura who described the party as “fiscally conservative, socially liberal.” In the last presidential election, the party endorsed Evan McMullin, a former CIA agent and a policy director for the House Republican Conference. The party also champions the reform of marijuana laws and election methods, including support for Ranked Choice Voting.
Another Independence Party Candidate, Ray “Skip” Sandman, Fond du Lac Ojibwe, is running for Congress in the 8th district. “For too long, the candidates of the two major parties have taken the people of the eighth for granted and have chosen to represent the interests of corporations and their wealthy donors,” Sandman said.
He is focusing on protecting the waters of Minnesota, opposing the PolyMet copper-sulfide mine and expanding the availability of higher education among his proposals. Sandman is one of 15 Native Americans running for Congress this election.The three Native American women who are running for the office of Lt. Governor are on different party lines. In addition to Topping, there is Donna Bergstrom, running in the Republican primary, and Peggy Flanagan who is campaigning for the Democratic Farmer Labor bid. (The DFL convention is June 1.)
Across the country, five Native Americans are seeking the post of Lt. Governor, and 13 are seeking statewide executive offices, including governor, secretary of state, and attorney general.
Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter Follow @TrahantReports