Denise Juneau

Tribes Weigh In, Power of Endorsement

Mark Trahant

TRAHANT REPORTS—Tribes in Montana and North Dakota went on record last week “endorsing” candidates.

The Salish Kootenai Tribe endorsed Denise Juneau’s bid for Congress. Juneau is scheduled to visit all of Montana’s reservations during the month. (Previous: Denise Juneau, It’s Really Good To be Here.) Tribal chairman Vernon Finley said on Montana Public Radio that it’s not common for the tribe to endorse political candidates. However Juneau is “a viable candidate and she represents all of the issues that we find important,” he said.

Mark Trahant

North Dakota’s Three Affiliated Tribes endorsed Chase Iron Eyes for Congress, Cesar Alvarez and Kenton Onstad for seats in the North Dakota House of Representatives, and Ruth Buffalo for North Dakota Insurance Commissioner. The MHA Times reported that the candidates made a pitch to the tribal council. “Following the presentations, Chairman Mark Fox gave each of the councilmen an opportunity to speak to the three candidates. The individual councilmen affirmed their support of the three politicians, praising them for their accomplishments, and wishing them good luck,” the Times said.

Do political endorsements from tribes matter? Absolutely. At a meeting of Montana Democrats last month Sen. Jon Tester urged tribes to endorse candidates because “when it comes to national fundraising,” he said, ”it counts a lot.” One reason why it matters is that it sends a signal that candidates who earn endorsements understand what’s important to Native Americans.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On @TrahantReports" target="_blank">Twitter @TrahantReports

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