Bernie Sanders visits Indian Country.
This is Trahant Reports.
You have to give Bernie Sanders a lot of credit for elevating American Indian and Alaska Native issues.
He has traveled across Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota, and at every stop (as he has been doing for months now) he called for a new relationship between the federal government and tribes.
At Pine Ridge, Sanders said: “There are a lot of problems here. Poverty is much too high. There are not enough decent jobs in the area. The health care system is inadequate. And we need to fundamentally change the relationship between the U.S. government and the Native American community.”
Of course just bringing Native American issues to the surface is a good thing because it forces other candidates to talk about the same issues and come up with possible solutions. Only that’s not what’s happening.
Google tells the story:
Search Bernie Sanders and Native Americans and there are some 771,000 hits, including videos of his speeches and a few news clips, mostly from regional newspapers. When it comes to Native issues, TV networks are more interested in the story about a six-year-old who was removed from a temporary foster home and returned to her family.
Actually the NBC story goes like this: “6-Year-Old Girl Removed From Foster Home Over Native American Heritage. Because Lexi is 1/64th Choctaw Native American, her case falls under the purview of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.”
This is why people hate politics.
Instead of having a serious election discussion about Native American policy most of the campaign news stories focus on the headline grabbing stories. Sure, it’s ok to debate the Indian Child Welfare Act, especially if the news media adds historical context about why it’s a law. But that debate only make sense if we pull back and look at the big issues, the relationship of tribes and the federal government.
Of course the news media has no way of knowing what’s important to American Indians and Alaska Natives. There are no Native American reporters working at any of the television networks and none on the campaign trail. There’s no one there to say, “this is a story, and here’s why …”
This is a story because no president can improve the relationship between tribes and the federal government. It takes a president, the Congress, the courts, the bureaucracy, and, the media, to help people understand the solemn promises they as Americans have made. It’s a story that requires research and history so that reporters can explain complex ideas. It’s a story because tribes are constitutional governments, not special interests. It’s a story because Native Americans deserve a say over what happens on our lands.
I like numbers so here are three:
* Native American representation in Congress; 0.37 percent. *Native Americans on the federal bench; 0.11 percent; *and, the percentage of Native Americans working in the national media, 0.00 percent.
Zero says it all. I am Mark Trahant reporting.