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The Only Presidential Candidate That Makes Indian Country a Priority: Native People Feeling the Bern

The Thing About Skins: The Only Presidential Candidate That Makes Indian Country a Priority: Native People Are Feeling the Bern!
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UPDATED, MARCH 21, 2016: Removed reference to Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye endorsing Sen. Bernie Sanders. Begaye has not officially endorsed a candidate at this time.

Another great step for U.S. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in honoring and recognizing Native Americans.” - Deborah Parker, Tulalip

Last time we talked politics, it was to say that NEITHER Democratic candidate had done anything to show good faith toward Native people. Sure, they both had a written document that made promises to Indian Country, but at that time neither candidate had invested any time, money or other resources toward Indian Country in their campaigns.

Well, that’s changed. At least it’s changed for one candidate. 

Photo: REUTERS/Scott Morgan

Members of the Meskwaki Nation Singers listen as U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders D-VT) talks to tribal members of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa/Meskwaki Nation during a campaign event at the Meskwaki Nation Settlement near Tama, Iowa, September 4, 2015.

See, Hillary Clinton STILL has not shown one bit of investment into Indian Country (other than a conference call that probably cost two dollars)—no outreach people to Indian Country, no ads committed to Native people, no visits to Indian Country. 


Steven Paul Judd - Courtesy Photo

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders has shown a considerable willingness to invest in our communities. From hiring a Native strategist (Nicole Willis—former Obama appointee, OG from the first Obama Campaign in 2008), to creating a platform that not only respects tribal sovereignty but also understands that Native people likewise have many of the same everyday struggles as the rest of America, Bernie is the one who is putting in the work in our communities. 

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And speaking of “our communities,” he’s actually coming to our communities. Clinton—like most mainstream presidential candidates throughout history—not only doesn’t mention Native communities or spend money on our communities, she sure as heck ain’t going to them. Bernie is. He’s been to the Meskwaki territories in Iowa (called the “Meskwaki Settlement”), to Navajo Territories (where he held a town hall). Furthermore, Mrs. Jane Sanders visited the Oak Flat “to discuss the occupation by the Stronghold.” Deborah Parker, Tulalip, calls this outreach, “Another great step for U.S. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in honoring and recognizing Native Americans.” Based upon that outreach to Native communities, many, many tribal leaders have endorsed Bernie Sanders.

Twin Arrows Casino, 'Dine' all the way!' - Photo: Bloomberg

Those tribal leaders see that the Sanders campaign is putting it’s money where it’s mouth is. In fact at this point, it’s a shock that there are still tribal leaders who don’t support Sanders. It begs the question: why wouldn’t those tribal leaders, who have the best interests of their Native communities at heart, support the ONLY candidate who has shown a commitment to Indian Country in policy, campaigning, rhetoric AND presence? It’s not even close—Bernie’s the only one who has done that.

Forget pragmatic politics and political favors and cynical allegiances—this is about the best candidate for our people, Native people. As such, it’s not even close—Bernie is the only candidate worth mentioning.

Courtesy Angelica Molina - Twin Arrows Casino 'Dine' all the way!'

"And when I think about the way this country, from way back when (from the beginning of this country), has treated Native Americans, it is an absolute disgrace. It is not acceptable. The treaties have been broken, the people have been cheated. Today we have the Native American community experiencing some of the highest rates of unemployment, some of the lowest quality education, some of the most inadequate healthcare in this country. That is not acceptable. If elected president, we will treat the Native American community with the respect [they need.]" - Bernie Sanders

Wesley Roach, Skan Photography

Gyasi Ross, Editor at Large

Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories

Twitter: @BigIndianGyasi

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