Views from Native America – the 2008 election candidates

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Indian Country Today sought a selection of thoughts about the upcoming election and which candidates people thought were the most viable to Indian country.

The range of people interviewed range from college students to retired and current tribal leaders. The views below are solely those of the individuals named and are intended to further the national conversation on the candidates’ platforms relative to Native America.


“Barack Obama will make the next best president. Our economic and military strength can no longer be the only tools we use in this new and ever-changing global reality. The information and techno age, coupled with energy consumption, has further solidified our global interconnectedness and interdependence. This reality requires a leader that understands how to thoughtfully maneuver and lead in such complex times. We can no longer afford or accept ‘John Wayne’ tactics or leadership.”

– Justin Kii Huenemann, Navajo
President, Native American Community Development Institute (Minneapolis)


“I have known John McCain for more than 25 years, and I feel he has a real good heart for Indian people. He has ably represented the 22 Arizona tribes for nearly 30 years. He has not only been a member of the Senate Committee of Indian Affairs, but he has ably chaired that committee on two different occasions. Frankly, a lot of positive legislation for Indian people has been passed by Sen. McCain, including NAGPRA [the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.]

“In regards to Sarah Palin, I was pleased by Sen. McCain’s pick of Gov. Palin; I think she brings a real-world view to the campaign and a perspective that comes from outside of Washington. She also comes from a state that has a high Native population, and her husband and children are Yup’ik.

“She will be an asset to Sen. McCain in his administration and to Indian country.”

– Former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Northern Cheyenne
Former chairman, U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee


“Hillary was my choice. I think Obama made a mistake not picking her as his VP choice, especially after McCain picked Palin to appeal to the female vote. My vote goes to Obama. I agree with Obama’s positions on Native issues [and] reaching out to Native communities. I think he will make a point of addressing Native issues when he reaches office, as he has demonstrated as a co-sponsor of the Indian Health Act.

“Palin spouts her husband’s Native ancestry while opposing Native hunting and fishing rights, and wants limits on tribal sovereignty. She also publicly acknowledges she wants to take away every right women have earned in the last century with the exception of the right to vote – that scares me.”

– Zabrina Cooper, Seneca
Program manager, Source 4, Newport News, Va.


“The Republican Party engages in political discussions regarding a ‘less is more’ mentality. Whenever you are dealing with a party that is trying to remove itself from your day-to-day life, it is allowing you – in our case, tribal governments – to take more control of its own destiny. A tribal government’s main goal is to be self-sufficient.

“I’ve always likened the Democratic Party to a group of people who have, by their choice, become the party for all minorities. These elections are not about a race: they are about governments. Tribes need to focus on government first and how these parties affect government.

“If you line up McCain’s actions – I’ll be voting for a McCain and Palin ticket.”

– Deron Marquez, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
Ph.D. candidate on politics
and economics


“I don’t think we have a choice: no more ‘Bush Babies.’ McCain cut his throat when he chose Palin; I don’t know what he was thinking. Obama was recently named by the Crows; he would do things good for Indian country. Obama has a lot to learn about federal Indian law, but once he learns he’ll need some advisers to put him on the right track.”

– Tim Moore, Keetoowah/Creek/Seminole and veteran
Washington, D.C.


“Sen. McCain has a quarter-century record of supporting Indian country. Nobody has ever passed more legislation to improve reservation conditions, tribal sovereignty, to provide law enforcement to protect Indian women and children and to protect culture. He was the driving force behind NAGPRA; it would have never happened without him.

Across the board, McCain has led the charge on every single issue of importance in Indian country for the last 25 years. There was never any reason politically for him to do this. He did it because it was the right thing to do.”

– John Tahsuda,
Vice president of Navigators LLC and co-chair of American
Indians for McCain Coalition


“Whether the issue is self-determination, law enforcement, housing, health care, education, protection of Native cultures and languages, or combating the spread of methamphetamines in tribal communities, Barack Obama is committed to working hand-in-hand with Native communities to address our needs
and aspirations.

“The Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association wholeheartedly supports Sen. Barack Obama for president of the United States of America.”

– Ron His Horse Is Thunder, Standing Rock
Sioux Tribe chairman
(From the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association
endorsement, Sept. 5, 2008)


“It is my belief that John McCain did what the Democrats did not have the courage to do. They nominated a woman, and it was a great choice. I like the fact that she speaks as a common person and is very straightforward. We as Native Americans have seen enough people speak with empty words. I will be voting for McCain/Palin, as a third-generation Democrat.”

– Debi McLeod,
Eastern Cherokee
Mother of three grown children with 6 grandchildren;
founder of Native Americans Against Obama


“In my opinion, Barack Obama and Joe Biden are the candidates who take Indian country sincerely. Barack has been reaching out to tribes all across the country long before he was taken seriously as a candidate by the rest of America. I like what and who he stands for. He approaches difficult situations in a calm, common-sense approach.

“Now that he is the Democratic candidate, he still has time for Indian country when Sen. McCain appears to be too busy or his schedule doesn’t allow it. This tells me one thing. It would be the same after he took over the White House if he were elected.

“Barack Obama has been addressing Native people and issues for a long time. He gets my vote.”

– Michael Bucher, Cherokee
from Wisconsin


“Certainly in my mind, John McCain is a quality candidate for Indian country simply from the standpoint of having a public record of positive impacts on tribal governments, nations and sovereignty during his terms as a member and in leadership positions with the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

“[In regards to Sarah Palin,] it seems to me that someone who has got at least some experience with Native issues is important. I believe that this matter of tribal-federal trust relationships is a government-wide responsibility and should not just simply vested in the BIA or the Department of the Interior.

If we can get two people in there who are knowledgeable to that level, maybe we can get some movement within the other federal departments to acknowledge that they have their own responsibilities to Native America.”

– Jacob Coin, Hopi
Executive director,
California Nations
Indian Gaming Association