Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. Trahant’s recent book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.

This election ought to be about one issue, a referendum on health care reform.

Republicans say it’s about repealing Obamacare. Every candidate has pledged to repeal the law (as if presidents had such power) as a first act in office. But then what? What actions would follow to improve health care and dramatically lower the costs? Is there a conservative alternative? (I don’t see kicking young people off of Medicare as a solution – that idea doesn’t drive costs down).

But the “what next?” question remains a tough one for President Obama and the Democrats. The Affordable Care Act was a baby-step, a beginning, not an end.

This single election question matters because the cost of health care is the federal deficit. We are paying far too much for an inefficient health care system when we also have an aging population that is facing expensive medical care. Just think, if we solve this one problem, then the rest of the budget is manageable.

Read the rest of this entry »

Election day is done and there’s been a shift in the direction Washington may take. The Dems fell in many situations. But here’s a report from the Great Falls Tribune recapping what many Native leaders are calling progress made a year after Democratic President Barack Obama called a Native American summit where he instructed federal agencies to work more closely with tribes on a number of wide-reaching policies and programs. A top Native American Affairs adviser tells Tribune reporter Ledyard King the president is committed to continuing the “regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration” with tribes.

    That dialogue, fostered by a president who eagerly sought out the Native American vote in 2008, helped ensure that programs specifically tailored for Native Americans were included in the sweeping health care reform bill Congress passed in March. It helped propel final passage in July of a long-awaited Tribal Law and Order Act that will expand tribal authority and federal assistance on reservations wracked by crime. And it helped push the administration to settle an 11-year-old class-action lawsuit, known as the Keepseagle case, in October, so that thousands of Native American farmers and ranchers who were improperly denied access to government aid for years can begin filing for federal compensation.

    “This is like night and day,” said Democratic State Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation.

Kyle Curley (left) shares a laugh with ASU student Yili Yu in front of ASU Discovery Hall in Tempe. Curley was promoting the candidacy of Chris Deschene, the first Native American to run for a statewide office in Arizona. DEIRDRE HAMILL/The Arizona Republic

Kyle Curley (left) shares a laugh with ASU student Yili Yu in front of ASU Discovery Hall in Tempe. Curley was promoting the candidacy of Chris Deschene, the first Native American to run for a statewide office in Arizona. DEIRDRE HAMILL/The Arizona Republic

It’s that time again. Election season: We’ve got political ads, debates, editorials, candidate scandals and oh yeah – the actual vote. And according to the Arizona Republic, Native Americans are warming up more than ever to having their voices heard through the ballot.
The candidates’ aim to attract Tribal members’ votes has always been strong, it may be even more ramped up now that, at least in Arizona, it looks like more and more of the Native population is signing up and checking those boxes.

    Native Americans’ political involvement is at a turning point, says Peterson Zah, a former Navajo Nation president who is now a special adviser on Native American affairs at Arizona State University.

    “When somebody like Barack Obama can become president, I think it gives a lot inspiration. I think that from here on out, you’re going to see more of the Indian people, especially the young people, voting and having aspirations to run for state office, and I think that Chris Deschene is the beginning of that,” he said.

Here’s a little more about Chris Deschene, the first Native American to run for a statewide office in Arizona.

Have you registered to vote?

Jenna Cederberg

Lynda Lovejoy waves to the crowd during the Navajo Nation Fair parade on Sept. 11, 2010 in Window Rock, Ariz./ FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press

Lynda Lovejoy waves to the crowd during the Navajo Nation Fair parade on Sept. 11, 2010 in Window Rock, Ariz./ FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press

Getting sense of who may become the first woman leader of the Navajo Nation (the world’s largest Indian reservation) is easy in this Associated Press story.
Lynda Lovejoy is running, and gaining speed against her male opponent, for president. As the story points out, it’s not an easy campaign trail she’s been hikiing. It’s not hard to find the “gender angle” in articles all over the Internet. And some people still believe “Women belong in the kitchen,” as is quoted in the story.
But it’s always more complicated than that, isn’t it? Lovejoy doesn’t always wear traditional dress, is Catholic and is married to a non-Navajo.
We’ll all have to wait and is if she, too, becomes a president. The election is Nov. 2.

    Men long have been the leaders of Navajo people and traditionally consulted with women in the communities as equals. Navajos see each person as having female and
    male aspects that create balance.
    Philmer Bluehouse, a traditional peacekeeper, said those who believe women can’t be president likely are looking to a Navajo tale of a female who was given a leadership post but became angry and controlling.
    But some fail to look beyond that story to one in which the deity White Shell Woman gives birth to the Twin Warriors, who rid the world of monsters such as greed, poverty and hate, Bluhouse said. According to Navajo lore, all Navajos can trace their ancestry back to her, and she’s considered to be the ideal woman.
    Both Lovejoy and Shelly know the story but are quick to note they’re no experts in tradition. They are familiar, though, with “monsters” that come in the form of a more than 50 percent unemployment rate, the abuse of women and children, infighting in tribal government and neglected elderly.

Director of the BIA, assistant secretary of the Interior, Indian affairs in the Missoulian’s neck of the woods this week.
Here’s the full story of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on reservation roads from Vince Devlin:

Michael S. Black, Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs/Courtesy BIA

Michael S. Black, Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs/Courtesy BIA

    POLSON – Almost three-quarters of the roads on American Indian reservations are unpaved, yet too much of the federal money meant to rectify that goes to states and urban tribes that don’t need it, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester was told repeatedly Friday.

    Tester, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, took testimony on the issue at a field hearing at KwaTaqNuk Resort – the first time a U.S. senator has convened a committee hearing on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

    The first of two panels to testify included some heavy hitters from Washington, D.C., including Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk, and Michael Black, the director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

    But it was the second panel, of Montana and Wyoming tribal leaders critical of the current system, which was most interesting.

    The Rocky Mountain region, with the largest land-based tribes and most miles of roadways, has actually lost money under the system, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Chairman E.T. “Bud” Moran charged.

    His Flathead Reservation has seen federal money for roads decline, from $1.3 million in 2006, to $750,000 this year, Moran said.

    “I don’t understand how that’s possible,” Moran said, “and why the BIA hasn’t stopped it.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

Indian Country Today reported this week that Congress has passed the Indian Veterans Housing Opportunity Act, which will help Native veterans get housing assistance along with federal disability and survivor aid they qualify for.
Rob Capriccioso reported that the legislation is headed to President Barack Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

    Until now, the benefits had been considered income under NAHASDA, thus reducing support. NAHASDA was passed in 1996 to allow tribal communities to more easily access housing grants by providing support to families who make less than 80 percent of the median income of their area.

    The flaw was fixed under the legislation by specifically excluding veterans’ benefits from the definition of income.

Here’s one more article about the Indian Veterans Housing Opportunity Act.

Jenna Cederberg

Bookmark and Share
Each campaign season manages to surprise us anew with the creative ways in which candidates attack one another.

Native Americans news takes to the campaign trail today with this year’s early frontrunner in that particular category. It comes from J.D. Hayworth, the Republican primary opponent of former presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona, with an ad that McCain terms a slap to Native Americans. (See the ad on Hayworth’s Web site, here.)

The ad depicts McCain in blue warpaint, a la the Na’vi people in the blockbuster movie “Avatar,” and spoofs him as the Oscar nominee for “Best Conservative Actor.”

Lots of people see the Na’vi in the movie as a sort of Native people in space, and McCain took that tack when blasting the ad. As Fox News recounts here:

    “Ex-Congressman J.D. Hayworth should immediately apologize and take down his latest online ad, which is an outrageous offense to John McCain’s lifetime of honorable service to our state and nation, and insulting to Native Americans here in Arizona and across America,” McCain campaign manager Shiree Verdone said Thursday in a written statement.

Hayworth’s campaign suggested that McCain get a sense of humor.

But a member of the Navajo Nation contacted by Fox wasn’t laughing:

    “Several staff assistants in the president’s office (who are Navajo) took a look and agreed that, at best, whatever message is trying to be conveyed is muddled and, at worst, some native people will find it offensive,” spokesman George Hardeen said in an e-mail message.

    “No other ethnic group is so frequently publically maligned in this very fashion, and here we have a candidate for U.S. Senate succumbing to the temptation of using images of race to bait an opponent,” he said.

Meanwhile, we’re heading off to the store for some hip waders to get us through what promises to be a long and very muddy campaign season.

Gwen Florio

Bookmark and Share

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steel’s “honest Injun” remark continues to rankle. (See previous post, here.)

He’s supposed to visit Montana Feb. 13. for a GOP event. A news release issued today by the Montana Democratic Party quotes several Indian lawmakers as calling for an apology – which Steele has yet to offer. The release reads:

    Michael Steele (AP photo)

    Michael Steele (AP photo)

    Montana Senators Carol Juneau (Browning) and Jonathan Windy Boy (Box Elder), and Representatives Shannon Augare (Browning) and Carolyn Pease-Lopez (Billings) today demanded a formal apology before Steele’s visit to Montana.

    “We’ve read Chairman Steele’s denials and half-apologies,” the lawmakers said. “We’re in an era when institutional racism should be a thing of the past. Before Chairman Steele is welcome in Montana, he needs to show he actually understands what he said was wrong and issue a real apology to the First Montanans.”

Gwen Florio

Bookmark and Share

The Supreme Court of the United States

The Supreme Court of the United States

Here‘s a worrisome report from the ever-vigilant Rob Capriccioso of Indian Country Today on the effect that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on campaign finance regulations is likely to hit Indian Country.

The ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission removes contribution limits on corporations and unions. Capriccioso writes about the likely fallout on Indian Country:

    Tribal observers largely said the outcome could negatively impact tribes, as few have the kinds of influence with lawmakers as corporations and unions have. By lessening restrictions on those groups, many said the court has made it all the more difficult for tribes to be heard in the American political system.

    “Native American interests have already been largely ignored in Washington,” said Heather Dawn Thompson, past president of the National Native American Bar Association and partner at the D.C. law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal.

    “Even before this ruling, it has been an uphill battle for tribes with corporate and union interests active in political contributing, often against tribal interests.”

And Daniel McCool, a political science professor at the University of Utah, says tribes could be outspent in areas particularly important to them, such as health care, banking and gaming. McCool is the co-author of the 2007 book “Native Vote: American Indians, the Voting Rights Act, and the Right to Vote.”

“In general,” he says, “it’s a bad decision for the Democratic process, but particularly for Native Americans.”

Gwen Florio

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele (AP photo)

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele (AP photo)

Bookmark and Share

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele went from bad to worse this week, attacking U.S. Senate Majority Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, for remarks he made about then-candidate Barack Obama during the campaign.

(Reid said Obama stood a good chance of winning, given his light skin and lack of “Negro dialect.”)

As Indian Country Today’s Rob Capriccioso reports here, Steele’s criticism seems a little disingenuous, following as it does his own use of the phrase “honest Injun” during a recent Fox News appearance. (See previous posts, here and here.)

    It was during another Fox News appearance, this time on Jan. 10, where Steele was confronted with his apparent hypocrisy.

    After covering Steele’s distaste for Reid’s remark, host Chris Wallace asked the top GOP politico about his own “honest injun” remark, noting that congressmen from both parties said that it is a racial slur. Dictionaries agree, noting that the phrase is considered impolite and politically incorrect because “injun” is a slang term for American Indians.

    “Well, if it is, I apologize for it,” Steele responded on the show. “It’s not an intent to be a racial slur. I wasn’t intending to say a racial slur at all.”

The backhanded apology doesn’t satisfy Native American groups.

Ronnie Washines of the Yakama Nation, president of the Native American Journalists Association, tells Capriccioso that “It is astounding that his mind can separate himself from Sen. Reid when it comes to deciphering racist remarks. How can Steele let others decide if his words were racist – and then surmise that if others think so, then he would apologize?”

Gwen Florio