First-time Native candidate already making history

(Photo courtesy of Lynnette Grey Bull)

Election 2020

Corrected: Democrat Lynnette Grey Bull is running against Republican incumbent Liz Cheney for a seat in the U.S. House. #NativeVote20

Kalle Benallie and Aliyah Chavez 
Indian Country Today 

It’s her first time running for office, and Democrat Lynnette Grey Bull has already made history.

Grey Bull, Northern Arapaho and Hunkpapa Lakota, is seeking a U.S. House seat in Wyoming.

She is believed to be the first Native person to run for Congress in the state. If elected, she would be the first Native person to hold a federal office in Wyoming, according to the secretary of state’s office.

But she faces a tough road, going up against Republican incumbent Liz Cheney in a historically red state. She also faces Constitution candidate Jeff Haggit and Libertarian Richard Brubaker on Tuesday.

Cheney, who holds the third-highest position among GOP House leadership, is seeking her third term.

Grey Bull said she received positive feedback after a debate against the incumbent and Haggit last month, which was broadcast on Wyoming PBS.

“I felt very honored and a sense of gratitude to even (have) made it this far into the campaign,” Grey Bull said.

She said she answered questions honestly and tried to tie them to Wyoming’s Indigenous communities.

“Being on that stage as a Native American woman and leader, all I kept thinking about was my people … the sufferings that all of us collectively as tribes have faced throughout the years,” she said.

(Previous story: 4 Native candidates advance in Wyoming, including 1st to run for Congress)

If elected, Grey Bull said she would spend her first 100 days in office tackling issues like homelessness, disadvantaged communities, health care, economic repercussions related to COVID-19, and issues tied to missing and murdered Indigenous women and violence in Indian Country.

“It’s always on the back burner. They’re never on the forefront of policy, and that needs to change,” she said.

She supports other issues like expanding and protecting public lands, focusing on public transportation to provide access to employment, increasing sustainability, and providing equal opportunities and preventing hate crimes for the LGBTQ+ community.

“I believe that all policy should lead back to the people and lead back to the community,” she said.

Grey Bull is founder and president of Not Our Native Daughters, a group aimed at raising awareness of missing, exploited and murdered Indigenous women and children. 

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She also wants to address systemic racism in health care services. Earlier this year, as the coronavirus peaked, Grey Bull heard reports of tribal members from the Wind River Reservation being denied treatment at nearby hospitals. 

“I think that conversation needs to be had, especially with our leaders, and looking at that in a policy kind of view.”

Grey Bull said as a first-time candidate during a pandemic, it’s been difficult to find innovative ways to connect to voters, especially because she’s a people person.

“I’ve done a lot of podcasts. I’ve done a lot of Facebook, informal town halls,” she said.

She noted she has gained support from some Republicans who agree with her platform and want to see more bipartisanship in Washington.

“I don’t want my children and want anybody’s children to live in this world where it’s us against them,” she said. “That type of mentality never works.”

Grey Bull is a single mother of three and said her family is like any other on the rez. She likes to be outdoors and enjoys going to powwows. “Prior to COVID, we were always at powwows; we hit the powwow trail,” she said.

Among her goals: standing up for Indigenous people and advocating for them to serve in positions of power.

“I’m fighting for a seat at the table so I bring others to have a seat at the table,” she said.

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Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez or email her at achavez@indiancountrytoday.com.

Kalle Benallie, Navajo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today's Phoenix bureau. Follow her on Twitter: @kallebenallie or email her at kbenallie@indiancountrytoday.com. Benallie was once the opening act for a Cirque Du Soleil show in Las Vegas.

This story has been updated to correct that Grey Bull is the current president of Not Our Native Daughters.

WATCH ELECTION NIGHT WITH INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY. Our live news broadcast starts at 8 p.m. Mountain Standard at IndianCountryToday.com on Nov. 3. #NativeVote20 #NativeElectionNight

Comments (1)
No. 1-1
caniscandida
caniscandida

Lynette Grey Bull is my new hero! Because this is activism of a truly heroic sort on her part: It's hard to imagine her supporters in GOP-friendly Wyoming outnumbering those who will vote for Dick Cheney's daughter Lynn, but nevertheless Grey Bull is bringing to the attention of one and all the issues that really matter, and have of course got overlooked.


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