Stephanie Woodard
Montana’s first territorial governor, Brigadier General (and Democrat) Thomas Meagher.

The Democratic Party’s Indian Problem (And Guess Who’s Next?)

Stephanie Woodard

Party time!

Montana Democrats were cheerier on the night before their ill-fated meeting with Wandering Medicine. Ladies in party dresses and gents in trim suits showed up for their annual dinner, at Helena’s Lewis & Clark Fairgrounds. Senator Tester was one of the first luminaries to arrive, swaggering into the cavernous hall. The biggest, brawniest guy in any room, he also plays the trumpet and blasted out the Star Spangled Banner for a thousand cheering Democrats.

Hollywood-handsome Governor Bullock and soldier-turned-Senator John Walsh were next. GOP kingmaker Karl Rove is directing attack ads against Walsh, a former National Guard adjutant general who led combat troops in Iraq. In a speech that evening, Walsh brushed off the smears, saying they twisted the record on his campaign for better armor for soldiers, and anyway he was tough enough to take it.

Big-tent Democratic ideals abounded, with a Blackfeet victory song, a recollection of defending Jews against a Klan attack and a rousing keynote address by Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards. Politicians posed for photographs with Indians and discussed Native issues.

Walsh has been visiting tribes. He told ICTMN he’d also spoken to tribal members about the controversial satellite offices. “It’s the right thing to do,” Walsh said. “I want to improve the situation on reservations, and communicating and working together means everyone’s lot will improve. Voting rights are very important and a big part of that.”

“The Democratic party is undercutting its candidates,” said Wandering Medicine. “It’s a stumbling block to progress—but only that.”

Wandering Medicine has a plan: “The Democrats had their opportunity. Now, I’ll ask the Republicans for a commitment. Will they support us Native plaintiffs and reject those fighting the satellite offices?”

Stay tuned.


William Main, Gros Ventre former chairman of the Fort Belknap Indian Community, at the Montana Democrats annual Mansfield-Metcalf Dinner, in Helena, March 8. (Joe Zummo)

This article was written with support from the George Polk Center for Investigative Reporting.


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Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Because I am a liberal most people peg me as a Democrat, but nothing could be further from the truth. Oftentimes the bone I pick with Democrats is that they don't go FAR ENOUGH in their liberal thinking. How would it adversely affect an election of the people in remote areas were given the same chance to vote as everyone else? These "Democrats" are going against their usual liberal attitudes for their own gain. We all have to remember that Democrats and Republicans are humans and prone to hyperbole, and taking care of themselves first without a second thought to the will of the people. They have nothing at stake when it comes to NDNs.

rockymissouri's picture
Submitted by rockymissouri on
The Dems should have respected Mr. Wandering LISTENING to him.