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Jefferson Keel

Chickasaw 

Indian Country is at a crossroads as deep divisions take shape within our country. Native people have borne the brunt of racism for hundreds of years and have seen Presidents attempt to eliminate tribal rights and our communities. Additionally, the pandemic is impacting Natives at alarmingly high rates, highlighting disparities that have long existed in healthcare and other services.

I witnessed huge strides to foster tribal self-determination during the eight years of the Obama-Biden Administration, elevating tribal voices to unprecedented levels and prioritizing Native issues to heights we had never experienced (or even dreamed of) before. 

Obama-Biden increased the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service budgets year after year. But the sad truth now is that many of the achievements and progress we made during the Obama-Biden Administration have been erased in the last four years with Donald Trump at the helm. Tribes have been alienated and ignored. Trump has tried to take tribal lands out of trust and at times we are even being purposefully sabotaged (in efforts to deal with COVID-19 within our homelands).

For these and many other reasons, I am honored to support Joe Biden in his bid to be the next President of the United States. 

Vice President Biden is a proven leader with exceptional grace and diplomacy. He has shown through his decades of public service a respect and commitment to tribal sovereignty. As the original author of the Violence Against Women Act, he has worked tirelessly to protect Native women from harm and abuse. He is a spiritual man who truly understands and respects the service of Native veterans, and will never disparage them in any way.

I know Joe Biden personally and am confident he will be a strong voice for Indian Country. 

He will uphold and advance the trust responsibility of the United States to tribal nations. A Biden Administration will return us to the days of tribal nations being welcomed to meet with the President and cabinet secretaries regularly to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship together. We need Joe Biden to help lead us through these divisions and ensure that Native people not only have a seat at the table but also have a voice in the decision-making process.

Two different paths are available on November 3. I am choosing to stand with Joe Biden in the most important election of my lifetime. Tribes can’t endure four more years of Trump.

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Jefferson Keel,Chickasaw, is a three-term president of the National Congress of American Indians.