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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, traveled to North Dakota before taking the stage in Detroit for the Second Democratic debate. It was the 38-year-old’s second visit.

The presidential hopeful saw that “there are amazing things happening and amazing changes and progress being made.”

She first stood on the frontlines with veterans on a cold December day in 2016. She saw tribal communities facing challenges then and can see it now, particularly with young Native people.

“The challenges that they [Native youth] continue to face with taken land not being returned to them, continued challenges with broken treaties and broken promises. These are things that we, as Americans, as a nation, must address,” she said. “But we got to make sure those voices are being heard in the process.” 

She spoke out about the Thirty Meter Telescope controversy by posting a video on Twitter. Before the video, opponents of the project wondered where she stood on the issue. She answered them.

“Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono,” she wrote. A Hawaiian phrase and the state’s motto meaning “the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness." 

“This is about something much greater than the TMT project — it has to do with longstanding history on Mauna Kea, broken promises, desecration of sacred land and disrespect for Native culture,” Gabbard wrote. 

A major theme of her campaign is the spirit of Aloha. It stems from her roots growing up in Hawaii.

Gabbard grew up in Hawaii in a “multi-ethnic and multi-faith” family. She is a practicing Hindu and has Asian, Polunesian and Caucasian descent.

“When we come together in this spirit of aloha, it gives us the opportunity to bridge and heal these divides that unfortunately are tearing us apart… as a country,” she said.

Protecting the land, water and air is part of her climate change platform as a presidential candidate.

“As president, I’ll tackle climate change by ending subsidies to big fossil fuel and agribusiness corporations, ban offshore drilling, harness innovation to create jobs in renewable energy, provide better opportunities for our farmers, and ensure every American has clean air and water,” she said and wants to invest in 100 percent renewable energy.

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Gabbard stands out from other candidates by being the first female combat veteran to run for president. She served two tours of duty in the Middle East and is currently a major in the U.S. Army National Guard.

She was also the first female combat veteran elected to Congress, along with Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois. In Congress, she has served for six years on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Armed Services Committee.

In a telebriefing call organized by Ethnic Media Services, a non-profit organization whose goal it vitalize the ethnic media sector, ethnic reporters asked Gabbard about her ideas on foreign affairs, particularly in respecting treaties, addressing the refugee crisis, her strategies for achieving peace in the Middle East, thoughts on President Trump and the election interference in Russia.

One question in particular concerned tribal media. Joseph Orozco of Hoopa Tribal radio asked Gabbard if she will work to ensure that the Bureau of Indian Affairs will fund tribal media to their list of federal trust responsibilities, alongside education and healthcare.

“A health democratic society needs health local media,” Orozco said. The issue is something Gabbard would “love” to work on and will pursue it further, should she be elected as President.

And part of being a healthy means working out for the veteran, often with high-intensity interval training. 

If not that then she can fit in a 5k run with her team. 

CNN reported that she was the most-searched candidate on Tuesday night after the Second Democratic Debate.

To qualify for the third presidential debate hosted by ABC, candidates will need at least 130,000 donors and register at 2 percent in the polls. The last two debates, candidates only needed 1 percent. As of noon eastern time, she falls short with 128,408 donors.

The debate will be on Sept. 12, maybe Sept. 13, in Houston at Texas Southern University which is a historically black university. 

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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