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Dalton Walker
Indian Country Today

Was it the knit patterned mittens?

Or, was it his comfy-looking beige winter jacket?

Maybe it was simply because it was Cheii Bernie Sanders, as dubbed by some Navajo for grandfather.

When most dressed in their Sunday best for President Joe Biden’s inauguration, it was the 79-year-old Sen. Sanders who left a lasting impression, at least in a fun, viral sense.

“You know in Vermont, we dress warm, we know something about the cold, and we’re not so concerned about good fashion; we want to keep warm,” Sanders told CBS. “And that’s what I did today.”

He sure did. He also unknowingly lit the internet on fire.

Sanders’ cozy inauguration wear started a friendly meme war that continued long past Biden’s big day on Wednesday. Sanders’ look has been immortalized by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, which features the senator in his face mask, mittens and jacket sitting in a folding chair. The Vermont schoolteacher who made the mittens was even interviewed for a news article.

Indian Country took notice of Sanders, too, and of course, no one does memes better.

Meme Sanders has been found on the Navajo Nation, at a "Stop Line 3" camp in Minnesota, at powwows, Native art markets, stick games — basically if someone in Indian Country thought of it, there was Bernie, too. He’s been wrapped in Pendleton-like blankets, given feathers and protest signs. Some even blurred the lines of time and placed Sanders in old photos.

Perhaps, Indigenous organizer Dallas Goldtooth captured how many in Indian Country feel about Sanders. He posted a meme of Sanders with a green and orange blanket.

“Uncle was cold and no one brought him a blanket,” Goldtooth said in a tweet. “So I did. #Bernie we love you.”

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Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter: @daltonwalker Walker is based in Phoenix and enjoys Arizona winters.

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