Ada Deer Courtesy The Cap Times
The First Americans for Hillary Clinton committee will be headed by Ada Deer, Menominee, and Dean Chavers, Lumbee.

First Americans for Hillary Clinton Campaign

Tanya H. Lee

Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency picked up some powerful support in Indian country recently with the formation of the First Americans for Hillary Clinton committee headed up by Ada Deer, Menominee, former DOI Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs, and Dean Chavers, Lumbee, director of the nonprofit Native American scholarship organization Catching the Dream.

Why Clinton? “She’s the most qualified candidate in the history of the U.S. that is why,” says Chavers. “And she has a very strong outlook on Indian affairs, a really strong policy statement. [On March 25] she had more than 30 tribal chairmen sign on for her campaign, including NCAI President [and Swinomish Indian Tribe Chairman] Brian Cladoosby.”

RELATED: 30 Native Leaders Stand With Clinton

Deer says, “She is the most qualified person. She’s a lawyer, and she has a long record of pursuing social justice for all people. We’re going to involve and energize American Indian people to help her become the first woman president.”

Asked what he thinks Clinton can do for Indian country, Chavers says, “First of all, we need to protect tribal sovereignty. That’s always the most important thing. And of course there are still those people out there who want to terminate all those treaties that we have with the federal government. So we want to keep those people out of the way and not let them get anything going.”

Liana Champagne, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, is the grant writer and federal program manager for the Crow Creek Tribal Schools. She expresses very strong reasons for supporting Clinton. “Native women have to be strong and know how to use our diverse strength in a good way. Hillary is one of the best examples of a strong woman that I can come up with. She’s educated and intelligent. She’s had to deal with her personal issues in a public forum. She knows what it’s like to be a minority…. She’s professional. She can act independently without being told what to do. She takes responsibility for her actions. She’s classy, unlike some of the other candidates. She’s a mom and a grandma. She already knows about Native American issues and I believe will advocate for us.”

Among the other members of the committee are Cynthia Chavers, Lumbee; Kalyn Free, Cherokee; Gloria Hale, Navajo; Janie Simms Hipp, Chickasaw; Elizabeth Lohah Homer, Osage; Mary Lee Johns, Lakota; Montana State Sen. Sharon Stewart Peregoy, Crow; Minn. State Sen. Paul Valandra, Lakota; and Delores Twohatchet, Comanche.

Albuquerque Indian Center Chairman of the Board Kiutus Tecumseh, Winnebago, speaking as an individual and long-time activist, says, “Hillary will use her diplomatic expertise to show respect to tribes and the many Indian citizens who reside in urban areas. Our clients at the Albuquerque Indian Center struggle daily with income inequality, education, food and health care needs. Hillary will actively embrace our unique issues better than the other presidential candidates.”

For former Comanche Tribal Chairman Wallace Coffey, the impetus for supporting Clinton goes back to Bill Clinton’s tenure as president. “I really admired the work that Bill Clinton did when he was in office. He invited the tribal leaders to the White House and gave us a lot of consideration that we had not had before, so I know that will be part of Hillary’s campaign. She has a great understanding of our Native issues and I’m really pleased about that.”

Coffey remembers riding a horse, along with Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, in Bill’s inaugural parade. Then, “I participated in the meeting the president had on behalf of our Indian nations. It was probably 350 tribal leaders that attended the summit in 1994. That was very exciting.”

Another reason that Coffey is backing Hillary is her interest in issues of paramount importance to Indian peoples, such as health care and the Violence Against Women Act.

“I’m very grateful for VAWA; it’s long overdue, he says.”

Finally, “I’m sure it’s time for a woman to be the president of the United States. That’s the way I look at it.”

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whitehorse's picture
Submitted by whitehorse on
It was only 2 months ago that Ms. Clinton finally came up with an American Indian agenda, that brings up some good issues. But, it does not go as far as Mr. Sanders who had actually hired American Indians to work on his campaign and visited several Reservations. Ms. Clinton's American Indian agenda is almost word for word what Mr. Sanders has been saying basically for the entire election. Lets NOT forget bill clinton's speech at Pine Ridge and the many promises he made and NEVER kept, after all Leonard Peltier is still in jail, dying a little bit everyday.

turbojesus's picture
Submitted by turbojesus on
Whenever people talk about helping tribes, it usually means helping their inner circle while everybody else gets crap on toast. How democratic of them. Social justice for some and tiny american flags for others. I haven't seen any territories regress in Oklahoma to their previous state. So it all must be for show.