A glimpse of the Republican National Convention

Indian Country Today

Indian Country Today Newscast with guest Donna Bergstrom on the RNC #NativeVote20

As the Democratic National Convention comes to an end, we look ahead to the Republican National Convention next week. The party will formally nominate Donald J. Trump for a second term. 

We talk to life-long republican Donna Bergstrom, Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, who ran for the office of Lieutenant Governor for the state of Minnesota two years ago. This election, she's running for a state senate seat.

Unlike the DNC, people will attend the RNC in-person in Charlotte, North Carolina, when it kicks off next week. It's estimated that it'll have more than 300 delegates plus staff and vendors on site to conduct business, operating under health protocols that were recently announced. 

Bergstrom gives us a glimpse at what to expect next week and shares her story, which she describes as the epitome of the American Dream.

Here are more comments from today:

Donna Bergstrom:

"I will not be there. I did not choose to run for the delegate position or participate in the convention because I am running for a state Senate seat here and I thought I would spend my time right here in Minnesota."

"This is very interesting. So I launched my campaign on February 27th, about and shortly thereafter, we closed down because of the pandemic. And one of the things of course that we did was we laid out a strategy and a plan. And when the pandemic hit, we had to adjust that. And one of the things so that we did consider was being heavy on social media and so that stands true, we are still doing that. And then about a couple of months ago, when things started to really look more optimistic here, especially in St. Louis County where I am and in the city of Duluth, where I am running for state Senate, we didn't have the numbers that the others did. So we started going out door knocking. We did social distancing, had our masks, but we were met with a lot of really positive response. And I find that people really enjoy meeting the candidate and having literature personally placed on their front porch or in their door handle, they liked knowing that the candidates out there are trying to earn their vote. So we kept that part of it."

"Sure. You know I think that the guidelines that have been put out there, people have been careful to look at them, we certainly have as my campaign. And one of the things that I do like to mention is that we have folks that aren't able to communicate unless they read your lips. And so the mask mandate really was concerning to me and my mom falls in that category. So I actually have a mask that is a clear shield mask and I've been using that so those that are able to communicate by reading lips or use that as part of their communication strategy are still able to do so but I'm confident that the RNC will take the precautions that are necessary to keep everybody safe."

"That's a great question. You know, I'm really not plugged into the RNC at that level. I'm more focused here on our local Republican level and then of course in our Minnesota state level but we do have a number of various groups that'll be presenting and each of our days are dedicated to something different. So the day one will be focused on the land of promise. So there'll be discussions and talking about that. Tuesday, we'll focus on land of opportunity. Wednesday will be land of heroes. Thursday, the land of greatness. And so each one of those, the speakers have not been fully vetted from what I understand. And so there may be an additional speakers on those days. But right now I'm not aware of any of our speakers that are from the Native community."

"I think just being part of this great nation, we are incorporated into that story. And one of the stories that I like to say for myself is that I am really the epitome of the American dream. I'm a testament to all the greatness that we have here. My mom was born and raised on the Red Lake reservation. She was born not long after American Indians were given the right to vote. So she has always exercised to right to vote. And that's really the first level of participating in our election process. So I think all of us will be participating in that manner. My dad was Swedish, Norwegian immigrant. And so I have that background and I know that from where I am here in Minnesota, we have a lot of folks that are involved in our community here that are Native and immigrant backgrounds. And we participate at our local levels at our state levels and at whatever levels they choose to do."

"Sure. And what I understand is that we have various caucuses within the Republican National Committees they're the Black American, the Asian American, GOP Hispanics, the RNC women, the GOP faith, Asian Pacific Americans, the young leaders, the veterans and military families. And so my assumption is that those all will be participating here in Minnesota we have similar, what we call affiliates and for about a year now, we've had our American Indian affiliate group that has been working alongside our regular affiliates to become part of the regular affiliate group with the Minnesota GOP. So I think this is one of those things where participation is voluntary, none of us get paid to do any of this. So we love to have anybody come forward and participate if they, if they can."

"A lot of times, some of these, like the convention in particular, going to Charlotte is a good chunk of money. So some of these things are costs. So as a volunteer what you have to look at is where can you participate and help? And a lot of times people focus on their local level. So I'm confident that the Republican national convention will be a good one and that they'll have a lot of good conversations, behind the scenes, when they're working on the issues that they need to get done. And then also really present a story next week for the American public to look at."

"I just read that this morning cause I previously saw it and thought that he was going to be attending and I guess that's really difficult to figure out because that is where he lives. So, I'm sure that it'll be thoughtfully worked out. On the one hand, you know, I'm calling, I'm talking to you here from my house, as you can see my den here with my posters and such in the background and that's just the way it is now with our COVID precautions. People are where they're at."

"My first vote was for Ronald Reagan. I found him to be just a really down to earth type president and my parents were both Republicans. And so that was the conversations that we had in our family. And when I went off to college I stuck with that and have been a lifelong Republican, like you said, ever since. And I think what I've seen in our party is sort of this branching out into many different venues that we have as our platform so that it reaches more of the American people and just letting people know where we stand. And what I really like about our process is that it really starts at the local level. You know, we started building up to this national convention back in March. So that's when we had our local conventions and then we had our congressional conventions, and then we had our state conventions and now it goes to the national. So people can get involved at the, at the grassroots level and have their voices heard all the way up the chain."

"Thank you so much. And I'm so proud of that and thank you to all our veterans out there. I am a retired Lieutenant Colonel, the United States Marine Corps. I accepted my commission through the officer candidate school in Quantico, Virginia in December of 1987. And one of the things that I really appreciate is how many Native people come into the military. And one of the things that I always say is that this is our home. You know, we're not going anywhere else. My mother's roots go back generations here in this great nation. So what I really would like and what I appreciate, you know, some of the changes that have been made with the VA is the way that we're able to take care of our veterans health and get to their concerns and their needs more quickly. And just to make sure that our veterans are respected, appreciated because we know freedom isn't free. And that is one of the things that the veterans remind us of too. So now I just hope everybody really appreciates how dedicated our service men and women are."

All right. Well, Donna Bertram, thank you for your service. Absolutely. And thank you also for joining us today to give a preview of the RNC convention. It starts on Monday and we'll be following along as well. Donna, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you. Thank you, Patty. And when we come back at the impact of the McGurk case in Oklahoma, how is the Supreme court ruling impacting tribes there? And the cities we'll be right back. 

Kolby Kickingwoman:

"Apparently there is a congressional working group from the state of Oklahoma and they feel as if some sort of legislation needs to be passed in response to McGirt. Tribes that don't feel that way, they have long said that they've worked with local and state governments on jurisdictional issues and the Indian Child Welfare Act for a number of years and that congressional legislation is not needed."

"The historic boundaries of the Muskogee Creek nation include Tulsa, which is the state's largest city. There's a lot of mainstream media that say that half of Oklahoma is Indian country. I think there's a lot of misinformation about that and it's important to know the facts."

"Last week, the Muskogee Creek nation, as well as the Cherokee nation established what they called sovereignty commissions with experts from their respective tribes and in law enforcement and public health and leaders from their tribal councils in order to protect sovereignty and resources and funding and everything that is coming out from, from this McGirt case."

"What's interesting for the Oklahoma delegation is they have two of the four Native members in Congress and so you think that there is the proper representation in order to have insight moving forward."

"I saw some reports from other news outlets that there are attorney generals from other states, from Pennsylvania and New York, that are assisting the Oklahoma attorney general and their lawyers in cases that may need to be retried. There's no specific number currently but it's something that the state was worried about originally, the quote unquote tidal wave of cases that would need to be reheard. There's no specific number currently."

"Last week also, there was a letter from eight tribal organizations from across the country that was sent to the Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, he's the senior delegate from Oklahoma, and that just said, you know, any rushed legislation, even if it was narrowly focused could be detrimental to Indian country and that Congress should not be in the business of diminishing tribal authority."

"Looking forward to it. I really wish he could have went to Charlotte, but we live in a new world these days with COVID-19. So, I'll be looking forward to covering it virtually and it should be a good time."

"I heard back from Tom Cole's press office and they said that he may speak, although it may not be a prime time slot. I'm still waiting for word to hear back from that but we'll definitely be tuned in anytime a Native speaker will be featured."

"No, that's the interesting thing. You know, they have a number of groups, as Donna Bergstrom really earlier pointed out when you interviewed her, but none specifically for Native Americans. And so it'll be interesting to see how they're involved during the week."

"The election season is basically in full swing, like he said 75 days away. And so our team at Indian Country Today is trying to profile and look into all the Native candidates. That'll be running in November. I'm looking forward to talking to Rudy Soto out of Idaho, who's running for congressional seat there and just plugging away."

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