Democrats running for president are starting to make their case to Native American voters.
This is Trahant Reports.
Except for one precinct in Iowa there has not been a lot of reason to court Native voters. Iowa’s Native American population is 1/2 of 1 percent. New Hampshire is 2/10th of one percent. These states do not look like the rest of the country.
But Nevada, where Democrats will caucus on Feb. 20, is even more diverse than the rest of the country.
Brookings Institute scholar William Frey describes Nevada as “the epitome of a state that witnessed an explosion of diversity in recent decades. In 2000 its electorate was 76 percent white, compared with 58 percent now.”
So both Democratic campaigns are in Native communities urging people to participate in their caucus. To win a caucus, you have to get people to go to a meeting; it’s not quite as simple as casting a ballot.
The Clinton campaign has had Native American advisors since last fall when Hillary Clinton addressed members of the National Congress of American Indians via YouTube.
“Hello NCAI … As Senator I cosponsored legislation to improve health care for American Indians. I worked to improve tribal colleges and other Native institutions. As Secretary of State, I advocated for the U.S. to endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I did these things because the United States has a sacred trust with Native Americans and we need to do a much better job of keeping that trust. You are our neighbors, our friends, our fellow Americans.You deserve a president who will honor your sovereignty, learn from the past, and fight for your futures. That’s exactly the kind of president I will be.”
The Clinton campaign has three senior Native American policy advisers, Rion Ramierz Jr., Holly Cook Macarro, and Charlie Galbraith.
Now the Sanders campaign has its team in place.
At a recent meeting of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Nicole Willis was introduced as a special advisor to the Bernie Sanders campaign. Willis is a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon, she has worked for the Obama administration, and was with the Obama campaign.
She said Sanders has already staked out positions. If elected president, Sanders will continue with the annual Tribal Nations Conference started by President Obama, hire a senior Native American advisor on at the White House, and expand the Violence Against Women Act. Sanders has also said he would find additional money for the Generation Indigenous initiative.
Sanders also promised that tribes would have a seat on the table on a broad set of issues. In the first 100 days he said there would be a summit on climate change and tribes would be full participants.
This is Mark Trahant reporting.