It was a proud day on Capitol Hill last week. Native Americans have new voices …
This is Trahant Reports.
Two Native American women, Sharice Davids, Ho Chunk, and Debra Haaland, Laguna
Pueblo, were sworn into the new Congress. They will join current
Representatives Mark Wayne Mullin, Cherokee, and Tom Cole, Chickasaw, in that
office. There are now four members from tribal nations in the Congress.
And this week Peggy Flanagan, White Earth Nation, takes office as Lt. Governor of
Minnesota. This is the highest ranking Native woman.
Another tribal citizen, Kevin Sttit, Cherokee Nation, will serve as governor of
And that’s just the offices we think of for headlines. There was more than a
hundred candidates in the general election for state legislatures — and 60 of
those were elected to office. In Arizona, for example, the state Senate went
from one member to three. All women, by the way.
Some of these legislative elections were from districts that represent tribal
communities, such as Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai who is Navajo. But others won in
broader or even urban districts such as: Rep. Jade Bahr, Northern Cheyenne, in
Billings, Montana, Rep. Ruth Buffalo, Mandan Hidatsa Arikara, in Fargo, North
Dakota, and, Debra Lekanoff, Tlingit in Washington state.
In San Juan County, Utah, after much voting rights litigation, a majority Navajo
county commission takes office. That means for the first time tribal citizens
will get a fair shake when it comes to state and local resources, such as
maintaining country roads.
What should we watch for as these elected officials take office? Here’s one: Listen
for Native voices. Will there be more of a say on issues that don’t even
directly involve Indian Country? Such as art councils, weights and measures
boards, all of the machinery that makes up government. This is important
because it includes us. It makes our voices valuable.
Back to Congress. Last week there were incredible celebrations. Rep. Haaland had an
open house in her congressional office building and lines of people showed up
to show their support and pass along their good wishes.
My favorite image, one that I saw often on the many campaign trails over the
years, is when young girls get their picture taken with the Congresswoman. They
now know they can grow up and follow this path to Congress, a governor’s
mansion, or even the White House. This is the very definition of an
As Deb Haaland told her supporters: “It’s a great day to be Indigenous!”
Yes, a great day. But it’s only one step and there is still a long way to go toward
representation in democracy.
I am Mark Trahant.