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Former congressman Joe Sestak from Pennsylvania started off the second day of the Frank LaMere Presidential Forum. The retired three-star admiral was the fifth candidate to speak at the presidential forum.

In his opening remarks, Sestak spoke about his understanding of tribal sovereignty and addressed the epidemic of violence against Native women. He also aimed to share more about his personal story by saying his daughter, Alex, has battled brain cancer.

The seven person panel asked Sestak a variety of questions including food sovereignty, suicide, the Indian Child Welfare Act, Native veterans, environment, 2020 census and media representation.

One issue he repeatedly addressed was the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women.

“80 percent of all sex crimes on a reservation are committed by non-Native American men… the data must be mandated,” he said, calling for more accountability and investigation into the issue.

On issues such as suicide, Sestak said he needed to do more research. He referred to suicide prevention programs in Britain where they purposely make it difficult to open pill bottles. He says suicide rates plummeted after this precaution was enacted.

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“I’m sorry I don’t have a better answer,” he said.

Another issue Sestak spoke about was the environment and sacred sites. He says he supports restoring the Black Hills and opposed the Keystone XL pipeline. He also cited Bears Ears and Chaco Canyon as being on his radar.

Sestak’s stances on other issues varied. He answered every question, however, did not always talk about the angle that includes Native Americans.

Indian Country Today will be posting an exclusive backstage interview soon. 

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Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is the Rowland and Pat Journalism Fellow at Indian Country Today and a reporter-producer. Her email is: On Twitter: @aliyahjchavez