Has the time come for an Indigenous president?
This is Trahant Reports.
Mark Charles is running for president. The Navajo man joins some thirty candidates, Democrats, independents, and Republicans, who would move into the White House.
Charles is at least the second Native American to run for president — Russell Means, Oglala Lakota, was a candidate for the Libertarian Party nomination in the 1988 campaign. He said at the time he was running because America was becoming “one big Indian reservation.”
Another national candidate was Charles Curtis. He was a member of the Kaw Tribe and was a member of Congress before being elected to the Senate and then the vice presidency as a Republican. His biography is called from “Kaw Teepee to Capitol.” And he served with Herbert Hoover.
It’s also worth mentioning that at least two Native American women have run for the vice presidency.
LaDonna Harris, Comanche, was on the ticket with Barry Commoner for the Citizen’s Party in 1980 (the year of Ronald Reagan’s landslide). Commoner was Bernie Sanders before Bernie Sanders and the Citizens’s Party was all about the structural faults within the Democratic Party. What’s interesting about that campaign now is that Commoner and Harris focused on environmental issues (long before the words of global warming or climate change were in public discourse). Get this: The Citizens Party platform called for the role of science in managing complex environmental challenges.
Winona LaDuke, White Earth Ojibwe, joined Ralph Nader on the Green Party Ticket in 2000 and again in 2004. When LaDuke announced her candidacy she was asked whether a Native woman from rural Minnesota should even be considered? She answered with her own question: Can men of privilege … who do not feel the impact of policies on forests, children or their ability to breast-feed children … actually have the compassion to make policy that is reflective of the interests of others? At this point, I think not.”
Mark Charles, like Means, Harris and LaDuke, is challenging the basic narrative about America. He told Indian Country Today’s Jourdan Bennett-Begaye that “We the People” excludes Natives, African Americans, Latinos, women, women of color, and other marginalized communities. He says the phrase doesn’t mean “all the people.” It actually means “white, land-owning men.”
Charles said he is looking forward to spending the next 18 months campaigning across Indian Country as an independent. He said he knows that’s a tough road, but he wants Indian Country’s voters to have a say in the outcome.
You know: It would be interesting if a Native candidate ran as a Democrat. New party rules require 65,000 individual contributions before a candidate can be a part of the national debate. But you know what? That’s do-able … imagine what kind of debate it would be if Native issues were front and center.
I am Mark Trahant.