Manitoba voters will decide this week on a new government — and a Native leader is running for the top post.
This is Trahant Reports.
Wab Kinew, Anishinaabe, a former journalist, a hip hop artist, and the leader of the New Democratic Party is one of four candidates seeking to form the next provincial government. In Canada voters pick a party, after that, the party with a majority (or a combination of parties) then becomes the government. The Progressive Conservative Party is now the ruling party and the current premiere is Brian Pallister.
Kinew was elected leader of the official opposition in 2016 after winning a seat in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. (To put that into U.S. terms: It’s the same as serving in a state legislature and the premier is a parliamentary version of a governor.)
This election raises all sorts of questions about Canadian politics — including Indigenous representation. There are more Indigenous candidates running for legislative seats than ever before, led by some 17 candidates for the New Democratic Party.
Yet there remains a deep division in Manitoba.
Pallister recently said that Kinew grew up with all those government benefits. He told the Thompson Citizen newspaper, Kinew “was handed more benefits than any premier in the last 60 years in this province.”
Pallister also says he’s the candidate who grew up in a home without indoor plumbing. (That’s why he hates taxes and is so pro-development.) And now? Critics say that Pallister lives in a mansion has a vacation home in Costa Rica.
Then this is the polite campaign.
A conservative campaign also directly attacks Kinew for his troubled past and tells voters that he is “a risk that we cannot afford.” One video asks: Did Kinew ‘try to intimidate his ex-common-law wife about the domestic assault allegations she made against him?” Another complaints challenge the circumstances around an assault of a taxi driver — a criminal act for which Kinew has been pardoned. Yet Kinew’s critics point out there has not been a full accounting of a domestic violence incident involving the former partner.
But the conservative ads also demonstrate a double standard in the era of Donald Trump (or in Canada, Doug Ford) who as candidates remained unapologetic about their past.
Kinew talks about his journey and how that led him to where he is today as a person and a candidate. Kinew told the Ottawa Citizen: “When I was being self-destructive, when I was partying too much, when I was getting in trouble with the law, there was family, community and spirituality.” It’s that idea that he says is essential before reconciliation.
Kinew also says the attack ads make it easier to talk about his journey and who he is today. He says this election is about the healthcare crisis in the province.
I am Mark Trahant.
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.
Donna Bergstrom, Red Lake, speaks to voters. She is the Republican candidate for Lt. Gov. (Photo via Facebook)
Election Day is a funny phrase. A generation ago it signified that one day when citizens showed up at the polls and cast ballots. Then after the polls closed, the votes were counted.
And today? Election Day is more like Election Month.
This is Trahant Reports.
In a few places people are already voting in the November election.
Early voting started in Minnesota last week, on Sept. 21st.
There are nine Native Americans running for a variety of offices in Minnesota, including the office of lieutenant governor where the next incumbent will likely be Peggy Flanagan, a Democrat and a citizen of the White Earth Nation, or Donna Bergstrom, a Republican, and a member of the Red Lake Ojibwe.
There is Ray “Skip” Sandman, also Ojibwe, and a candidate for the U.S. House on the Minnesota Independence Party.
There are also eight candidates for the state legislature running as Democrats and Republicans.
Another state where voting has already started is South Dakota. This is another state where Native voting could really make a difference, especially early. Why? Because early voting is a sure thing. A vote on election day itself could work, but the voter might get tied up at work. Or have to deal with a family issue. Or. Or. Or. The point is an early vote is done. Certain. So imagine what the numbers would look like if the Native American precincts in South Dakota reached 100 percent participation.
South Dakota has ten Native candidates running for office, including for two statewide offices. Wayne Frederick, Rosebud, is seeking the post of Public Utilities Commission and Alexandra Frederick, Lakota, is running for Secretary of State. Yes, they are a married couple. Campaigning together. Alexandra Frederick says they have already driven 10,000 miles to reach voters in small towns. She told the Huron Plainsman that “we can change things, we can make it better, we can make this a South Dakota that represents everybody …”
If elected, Frederick would be in charge of elections. And she said she is working hard to encourage more people to vote. Voting practices that she said are not always fair. Members of her family, living in the same house, were told once when they went to vote that some of them had to vote at a different precinct that was many miles away.
There are nine Native American candidates for the South Dakota legislature.
Across the country some 100 million people do not vote. One study estimates that at least 30 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives are not registered to vote.
Today is a good week to change that. This week, and September 25, are National Voter Registration Day and Week. If you want more information, on how to vote and how to register go to NativeVote.org
A lot of voter registration deadlines are next week — so do it soon.
I am Mark Trahant.
Across the country, across the wide channel that we call “politics,” this is an extraordinary year. There are more Native Americans running for a variety of offices than at any point in history.
Two years ago at this point, there were five candidates for Congress, a total of three Democrats and two Republicans. There were four candidates for statewide offices in two states, North Dakota and South Dakota.
And this year? There are 10 candidates for Congress. A dozen running for statewide offices, including three for governor and another five for lieutenant governor. It’s also interesting to note the party breakdown this time around: Four Democrats are running for Congress; four Republicans; one Green Party candidate; and one candidate representing the Independence Party of Minnesota.
There are 77 Native Americans running for state legislatures across the country. And in Montana there are 14 or 15 candidates for the state legislature (depending on a legal challenge by the Green Party.) There are at least a half dozen legislative candidates in Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, Minnesota, South Dakota, and nine in Oklahoma.
This election has so many firsts, such as three Native American candidates for governors in Idaho, Hawaii, and Oklahoma.
One of those candidates for governor is Kevin Stitt, Cherokee. His career has been in business. He has not said a lot about tribal issues but has participated in a forum with the tribes. He was endorsed by President Donald J. Trump who tweeted: “Kevin Stitt ran a great winning campaign against a very tough opponent in Oklahoma,” Trump tweeted. “Kevin is a very successful businessman who will be a fantastic Governor. He is strong on Crime & Borders, the 2nd Amendment, & loves our Military & Vets. He has my complete and total Endorsement!”
There is a 100 percent increase in party nominees for Congress; a 300 percent increase in statewide candidates; and a seven percent increase in candidates for state legislatures.
In Oklahoma’s second congressional district, the next member of Congress will be a Cherokee citizen. Democrat Jason Nichols, the challenger, or the incumbent, Rep. Markwayne Mullin. He is one of two tribal citizens now serving in Congress along with Rep. Tom Cole.
Mullin started his reelection campaign with a controversy. Just by running. He broke a previous promise to only serve three terms (ticking off some of his more conservative supporters).
Mullin is a strong supporter of President Donald J. Trump and has said that his hope for this administration is “to end the overreaching paternalism that has held American Indians back from being the drivers of their own destiny.”
Nichols is the Mayor of Tahlequah. He says his campaign is about putting people ahead of politics and money. Recently commenting about the Cherokee Nation Holiday, Nichols said: “Our ancestors, I believe, would be proud of where we’ve come and where we’re headed in the Cherokee Nation.”
Oklahoma’s 2nd congressional district has one of the highest percentages of Native American voters in the country at just over 17 percent.
I am Mark Trahant.