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Presidential hopefuls will have an unprecedented chance to talk to the large voting bloc that is Indian Country at the first-ever Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum, Aug. 19 and 20, that might give them the last push to the debates in Houston. This is particularly important because the first two Democratic debates have now passed and the criteria to qualify for the third round on September 12 and 13 is much stricter.

Monday afternoon OJ Semans, co-executive director of Four Directions, announced the confirmation of two more participants; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota.

They will join: Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, Marianne Williamson, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, former United States Rep. John Delaney and Independent Mark Charles, a member of the Navajo Nation.

Semans told Indian Country Today previously that it’s important for those running for president to understand the trust and treaty obligations the federal government has to tribes.

“We’re pretty positive that this will be a historic forum and one where candidates aren’t coming there for ‘we got you’ questions,” Semans said. “More of, ‘we want to teach you’ questions.’ We want you as a presidential candidate to understand the people you signed treaties with and what those treaty obligations are.”

In the press release announcing Warren and Klobuchar, Semans added that when candidates understand the issues Native communities face, Native votes can be earned.

“No candidate should take the Native American vote for granted,” Semans said. “But when candidates demonstrate they understand our issues and will work for the betterment of our people and our communities, they can earn our votes.”

Sen. Warren joins Sanders as one of the front-runners for the Democratic nomination to take part in the historic forum. Although, the former is a bit more polarizing in Indian Country due to her claims of Native American ancestry and the unconventional release of the DNA results.

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Elizabeth Warren

She did apologize this past February for identifying as Native American, saying in a USA Today story, “My apology is an apology for not having been more sensitive about tribal citizenship and tribal sovereignty. I really want to underline the point, tribes and only tribes determine tribal citizenship.”

Just last week, Warren was endorsed by U.S. Representative Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, D-New Mexico. Haaland said, “I’m very proud to endorse Elizabeth Warren for president because it is time for the American people to have a champion.”

Before Monday’s announcement, people across social media were calling for Warren to take part in the forum.

One thing is for certain, it is setting up to be a historic two nights at the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City, Iowa. The forum takes place on Aug. 19 and 20.


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Kolby KickingWoman is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is Blackfeet/Gros Ventre from the great state of Montana and currently reports and lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406Email -