“This is our chance to tell candidates that they can earn our votes,” said organizer O.J. Semans, co-executive director of the national Native American voting rights organization
Nine presidential hopefuls, Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, former U.S. secretary of housing and urban development Julian Castro, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Montana Gov., Democrat Steve Bullock, Navajo pastor Mark Charles and author Marianne Williamson say they will participate in the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum.
The two-day event opens Monday in Sioux City, Iowa. Organizers say invitations were extended to candidates from all major political parties, although so far only these nine candidates hoping to unseat President Donald Trump in the 2020 election have confirmed their attendance. The organizers also say talks are continuing with several other campaigns.
Mark Trahant, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe and editor of
Of the hundreds of issues of importance to Native American voters, panelists will focus on two in particular, said Semans:
“Actually, underfunding is the fundamental to all these issues,” said Semans. “We wouldn’t have to be discussing funding for our transportation or infrastructure, we wouldn’t have to have discussions on housing and health care and law enforcement if the federal government fully honored the treaties.”
In a related development, Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced Friday she will work with New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna) on legislative proposals addressing chronic federal underfunding of tribes, as well as barriers to tribal sovereignty.
The federal government has a responsibility to write a new chapter in the story of its government-to-government relationship with tribal nations. Read my and @SenWarren’s OP-ED in @IndianCountry: https://t.co/6dmxGrzswm
— Rep. Deb Haaland (@RepDebHaaland) August 16, 2019
The last time Native Americans had a chance to speak directly to presidential candidates was in August 2007 at the “Prez on the Rez” forum on the Morongo Reservation in California. Only three candidates, all Democrats for the 2008 race, participated. Then-New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel took part.
This week’s forum is named for civil rights leader Frank LaMere, a citizen of the Winnebago tribe in Nebraska. He died in June.
Co-sponsors include the Native Organizers Alliance, the National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund.