Well Done Indian Country: Amazing Job During the Election, but Now the Hard Work Begins
Ok, now the election’s done. Good. Thank God—it went on about six months too long. There went a billion dollars that could’ve been used to help educate children or wipeout poverty or pay 1/16000th of our national debt. But at the end of the day, our guy (Obama) won, the best President ever for Tribes; a great champion for Native people, Tester, won; and Heitkamp also won. Good job everybody—thank you to all of the organizers, all the volunteers, all the Natives who fundraised, who spoke, who kept Native people as a relevant topic to the campaign. Heck, there was even a couple of Skins in Chicago in the headquarters on election night representing. ALL OF YOU did a great job. Still, now is not the time for celebrating. Now is the time for working—in fact, the hard work only begins now. In the past few months, there have been MANY people asking you to vote for specific candidates—Obama, Tester, Heitkamp, Inslee for example (and, of course, there were folks on “the other side” encouraging you to vote for their candidates as well). “Our” people won, in no small part due to the Native vote in various states. Now is the time to hold those candidates and their supporters accountable. If those candidates, their parties, and/or supporters (including me) cannot show how Native life is improving as a result of those candidates’ respective actions, then we need to reconsider how much value to put into those candidates’ and/or parties’ performances. That’s how this system works—“We give you support when you need it (during election time) and you give us support when we need it (when we need help with our issues).” That’s what the Jewish voting bloc has done for decades; that’s what the Hispanic voting bloc is beginning to do now. We showed unprecedented support for the Democratic Party (with good reason—the Republicans have been crazy recently. Palin? Really? Hopefully they mellow out.) and its candidates in 2008 and 2012 with both financial contributions AND votes—now it’s time for the Democratic Party to show unprecedented support for Native people. That “support” cannot just trickle down to a couple of fancy Skins (like me) who know the secret handshake and benefit while the rest of Indian Country continues in the status quo. No, it has to be support for Native people as a whole; yes, there are still LOTS of our people who don’t even have basic opportunities. We need that support to trickle down to them. Yes, all of the aforementioned elected officials have very positive relationships with Tribes. Still, none of them are above reproach and there are still many things to be done for our people—we need to demand results. Legislative scorecard, anyone? NOTE TO ELIZABETH WARREN: Oh yeah, our favorite Cherokee—Elizabeth Warren—also won her Senatorial seat in Massachusetts. Despite her strategic, fictitious Native lineage that she leveraged to distinguish herself from other job candidates, she’s been dodging Indian media, Indian Democrats, Indian people. Heck, she probably doesn’t even sit Indian-style or bar-b-q during Indian Summer; she seems to want nothing to do with us. The truth is, she doesn’t have to be Native to be an ally—who cares? Inouye isn’t Native. Obama isn’t Native, although he is adopted Crow. Tester isn’t Native. He’s a big cornfed white boy rancher who happens to be one of the best champions that Native people have in DC. Therefore, this is an invitation to Senator Warren’s people—congratulations, and come talk to us. Otherwise, we’ll likewise hold you accountable. In either event, good job everybody on getting out the Native Vote and letting our voice be heard loudly. Now, the hard work begins—making life better for all of our people. Gyasi Ross is a member of the Blackfeet Nation and his family also belongs to the Suquamish Nation. He wrote a book called Don’t Know Much About Indians (but i wrote a book about us anyways) which you can get at DKMAI.com. He is also co-authoring a new book called “Of Course I’m a Boy, Silly!”, and the website and publishing company for that handy-dandy book is CutBankCreekPress.com (coming soon). He also semi-does the twitter thing at twitter.com/BigIndianGyasi.