The Donald Trump campaign announced it has formed a Native American Coalition in the last week of the presidential race. The coalition was created on October 30 with little fanfare. In a press release on the Trump website it was made public that Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is the Chair of Trump’s Native American Coalition.
“The coalition actually started as an advisory committee,” said Mullin, who said the first meeting of the advisory committee was in early September. “What we fight for in Indian country is less regulations, and that is what our father’s fathers fought for; and when you think about that there is only one clear choice – Trump.”
Fleming Begaye Sr. was tabbed Honorary Chair of the coalition. He is a member of the Navajo Nation and a Navajo Code Talkers of World War II. He was October 30 in the announcement at donaldjtrump.com, “Native Americans need a federal government that gets out of the way of small business. As an independent and successful small businessman, I crossed the line this week and voted for Mr. Trump.”
Other notable names who have joined the Trump coalition are former BIA chief Ross Swimmer of the Cherokee Nation, former Poarch Band of Creek Indians Chairman Eddie Tullis, and New Mexico State Representative Sharon Clahchischilliage from the Navajo Nation. But the total number of people in the coalition according to the press release was 27.
“As a local elected official, I am outraged that Indian country is prevented from harnessing our own energy resources by ever-increasing regulations,” Clahchischilliage said. “The Trump administration will ease restrictions on American energy reserves worth trillions of dollars. Together we will block the bureaucrats holding Native American businesses back and bring new jobs into our communities.”
“I’m very surprised that Trump has Native Americans that are supporting him for president,” said Henry Silentman, Chairman of the Democratic Party of San Juan County in New Mexico. He is also a member of the Navajo Nation. “I don’t think he espouses our Native values. I think it is a shallow effort to get Native American support. In our neck of the woods (the Navajo reservation) Hillary [Clinton] is getting a large block of the vote.
“He hasn’t made any comment on the pipeline protest and the things that are happening in North Dakota,” Silentman said. “I understand he has money invested in the pipeline. (If elected) he is going to be working for big corporations – oil and gas. His Native supporters are those who support oil and gas development because we have it, but it’s a finite resource. Trump has not made any comments about how he is going to help Native Americans.”
“The big issue for me is trust land. That’s something me and the Trump campaign have had conversations about and will continue to have conversations about,” Mullin said. “The tribes that need it the most are the ones outside of the metropolitan areas, who may not have the ability to have a casino. However, they’re walking on top of ground that has all kinds of natural resources and fossil fuels.
“We have an ear with Trump and he’s listening,” Mullin said. “Most people in Washington don’t understand the issues in Indian country. You have to inform people and that’s the same way with Trump. He’s not going to learn it overnight. He’s relying on our counsel.”