This is Trahant Reports.
Two years ago Denise Juneau was making history. She was running for Montana’s only seat in Congress. It was a hundred years since Jeannette Rankin had won that same seat, the first woman ever elected to the Congress. So a century later Juneau, Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara, would be the ideal first Native woman to serve. She was following her plan perfectly, raising $3 million, crisscrossing that huge state, and mobilizing voters.
Still, she lost.
Juneau is now Superintendent of Schools for the city of Seattle. She said she didn’t feel bad about losing because “we did everything we were supposed to. We just lost.”
Then she turned philosophical.
She said every time another Native woman steps up to run for any office, whether that be the state legislature, the city council, the. Congress, it paves the way. There’s sort of a pipeline, which is really awesome right now, that there’s never been a path for Native women to just really step up. “I believe right now, we’re in a time and space where we see that happening,” Juneau said. “There will be a first at some point.”
That “first at some point” is coming fast. There are now more Native women running for office than men, 51 candidates out of 99 running for offices across the nation. More Native women than men are running for every office from state legislature to governor.
The only exception: Congress. There are three Native women running and five Native men for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
How does that compare to the rest of the country? Well, nationally it’s a record year for women seeking office: There are currently 251 women seeking one of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 26 more women seeking one of 35 Senate seats.
Last week I even added a new name to my tally, Yvette Herrell, who running for the second congressional district in New Mexico as a Republican. The Cherokee Nation let me know that Herrell is a citizen. So New Mexico could send two, not one, Native American women to the Congress.
Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, is the Democratic nominee in the state’s first congressional district. Sharice Davids, Ho Chunk, is a candidate in Kansas.
Beyond Congress, there are two Native women running for governors, Paulette Jordan, Coeur d’Alene, In Idaho and Andria Tupola, Native Hawaiian, in Hawaii. And there are four Native women running for lieutenant governor, Debra Call, De’nina, in Alaska; Anastasia Pittman, Seminole, in Oklahoma, and in Minnesota, two candidates, Peggy Flanagan, White Earth, on the Democratic side, and Donna Bergstrom, Red Lake, as the Republican nominee.
Yes … Native American women are making history this election. Next week we will dig into some numbers.
I am Mark Trahant.