Skip to main content

The Meskwaki Nation in Iowa is a major attraction for presidential candidates this election season.

For one, Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, is now the ninth presidential hopeful to join the first Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa, later this month.

Two, at least five candidates have committed to attending the 105th Annual Meskwaki Powwow this weekend. Sen. Cory Booker, Gov. Steve Bullock, Marianne Williamson, Rep. John Delaney, and Rep. Beto O'Rourke are planning a visit.

However Booker, along with entrepreneur Andrew Yang, have formally declined to attend the LeMere forum.

Looking at the previous elections, it’s safe to say that candidates often overlook the state’s tribal community or have even considered the Native Vote.

That was also before candidate Julián Castro visited Meskwaki Nation in Tama, Iowa, at the end of July. Gov. Steve Bullock stopped by in May.

Joshua Adams, an assistant professor at Salem State University, wrote in The Washington Post this week that ignoring the Native Vote is “a mistake” for Democratic candidates, especially when they’re slow to respond to the unique forums.

“Native American voters might not be numerous, but they are clustered in states that likely will be critical to the outcome of the 2020 presidential election,” Adams wrote. “Though votes are important, politicians shouldn’t just engage with Native American communities only during election season.”

He listed Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, and North Carolina as examples.

“In the 2016 election, Trump won Michigan, a state with more than 100,000 Native American people of voting age, by around 11,000 votes. Arizona, a state Democrats want to capture in 2020, has a voting-age population that is approximately five percent Native American,” he wrote. “In 2018, 1.5 percent of eligible voters in Wisconsin were either American Indian or Alaska Native; in 2016, Trump won the state by a single percentage point. North Carolina, a state Barack Obama won in 2008 but which he and Hillary Clinton lost in 2012 and 2016, respectively, is home to the Lumbee Tribe, the largest tribe east of the Mississippi River.”

You know another state Obama won? Nevada.

A state that includes 25 federally-recognized tribes, bands, and colonies.

Indeed, Warren is doing what Obama did to win the state and the entire election, she’s building a huge campaign with staff everywhere, according to POLITICO.

“Warren has built a monster,” said one Democratic operative to POLITICO. Former California Attorney General Kamala Harris follows behind Warren in terms of building campaigns. Former Vice President Joe Biden just isn’t winning the campaign game, but his name makes him known to voters. Castro is looking like “a sleeper” in his campaign.

Poll numbers report a different story.

Biden is ahead by a wide margin, polling at 32 percent. Warren is second with 21 percent, followed by Sanders at 14 percent, and Castro is at 1 percent, according to the national Quinnipiac Poll released Tuesday.

However, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says people on the ground are more important when candidates compete in a caucus state like Nevada.

Adams brought up an informative observation about Indigenous communities.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

“Many Indigenous communities are the most in need of creative policy solutions to long-running problems,” he wrote.

Warren just released her $85 billion plan to expand broadband access to underserved areas like tribal communities.

She’s upset with how the Federal Communications Commission has been handling broadband access in rural areas.

She plans to use $5 billion of the $85 billion for tribal nations and “expand the FCC's Office of Native Affairs and Policy to provide additional training and funding,” according to WIRED.

The funds would also create grants for internet providers that give service in rural areas. An office called the Office of Broadband Access would be created with the Department of Economic Development to manage the programs and funds.

Loris Taylor, Acoma Pueblo and Hopi, is "delighted" by Warren's plan. The president and chief executive officer of Native Public Media has been advocating for broadband access in tribal communities since 2005. 

“I think it’s pretty comprehensive,” she said. “I’m waiting for other candidates to roll out their plans to include Indian Country that include this broadband area.”

The work to expand broadband access has slightly paid off in the past 14 years.

“According to FFC’s anecdotal data, broadband penetration across Indian Country was around 10 percent or less. Today I understand, once again according to the FCC, we’re at 30 percent or slightly higher in some tribal communities in Indian Country,” she said. “So we've come a long way but we haven't reached that same threshold as the rest of America which is at 80 percent or higher. We have a long way to go.”

De Blasio will join Marianne Williamson, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mark Charles, Gov. Steve Bullock, Julián Castro, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. John Delaney, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar at the Native presidential forum.

The forum takes place in Sioux City, Iowa, at the Aug. 19 and 20. Tickets can be purchased on Orpheum Theatre website.


What: 105th Annual Meskwaki Powwow
Dates: Aug. 8-11 (Thursday-Saturday)
Time: Grand Entries at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Admission: Adults $7; Children $5; Children 5 and under FREE
More information:


What: Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum 2019
Dates: August 19 & 20 (Monday & Tuesday)
Times: 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Location: Sioux City Orpheum (528 Pierce Street, Sioux City IA 51101)
Admission: $3 ; Purchase tickets for Aug. 19 on EventBrite; Purchase tickets for Aug. 20 on EventBrite.
More information: Orpheum website


ICT smartphone logo

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is the Washington editor for Indian Country Today based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @jourdanbb. Email: