Bernie Shares Our Core Cultural Values

LaDonna Harris & Samuel Fred Goodhope

I have been working on political revolution since 1968 when I campaigned for Hubert Humphrey. I have always supported presidential candidates who share my values, like Fred Harris, Jesse Jackson, Barry Commoner, Howard Dean and Barack Obama. At the age of 85, I join my 28-year-old grandson who helped me draft this op-ed, in support of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. Bernie, like my Comanche grandmother, believes that everyone has “Medicine” or inner personal strength that can be contributed for the benefit of the whole. Bernie shares my strong conviction to protect Mother Earth. He has a plan to close the ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor. And Bernie will work with tribal governments and urban Indian communities to strengthen our right to be self-governing.

Throughout my career in the Native American Self-Determination Movement, I have had to educate thousands of politicians and decision-makers. Bernie doesn’t need Indian 101 – he gets it! One only has to look at the makeup of the Sanders Campaign which reflects strength in diversity. His campaign was the first to issue an Indian Policy Statement and hire Native Americans this election cycle. He has met with tribal government officials and Native activists at every opportunity, and Bernie, unlike any other candidate, actually mentions our community in his basic stump speech. Bernie won’t just maintain the status quo for Native Americans but intends to take Federal Indian Policy to a whole new level.

Senator Sanders takes Native voters seriously, realizing that Native Americans are often the swing vote in many of the remaining primary states. Bernie knows that when Indians vote, Democrats win. While other politicians seem to go through the motions, Bernie actually internalizes the diverse messages of the many peoples he campaigns and meets because his vision for this country as stated is inclusive and pluralistic.

My values, as an Indigenous person, embrace the fact that we are related to all things, including all peoples and our Mother Earth. We have a responsibility to care for our relatives, especially our mother.

My brother Bernie also cherishes his relationship with Nature, and he has been an outstanding leader in environmental protection. He recognizes the devastating effects that fracking has on our sacred lands and hallowed water-ways. Bernie is our champion against the powerful extractive industry who seek wealth over our health.

As grandparents, Bernie and I regard water as our most precious resource and want to ensure future generations have clean drinking water. Here, in New Mexico, water is vanishing at a frightening rate. The recent polluting of the Animas River and the poisoning of the water source of hundreds of Navajo families hurts and alarms Bernie and I. The lack of political will to slow climate change worries us. Candidates to the Right of Bernie, seem not share these concerns for the planet. Bernie is a strong advocate for adopting new climate-neutral energy policies, like the legislation he has already introduced.

My Comanche grandfather who knew very little English, often uttered the phrase, “That damned Hoover” while I was growing up in Southwestern Oklahoma during the great depression. I remember accompanying him to vote for Franklin Roosevelt when most believed that what FDR proposed was impractical and could not be realized. Our family related to the New Deal policies that forced the rich to pay their fair share of taxes and that provided a helping hand to the working poor.

I support Senator Sanders because he values people, Nature, and he cares for our relatives as much as I do. Bernie and I are ashamed that 1% of the richest of the rich own almost all of the Earth’s wealth and resources. Bernie and my shared worldview is that corporations are not people and everybody deserves an education and access to opportunity. Greed should not be the value by which people operate.

Generosity is a guiding principle of the Comanche, and I embrace Senator Sanders’ practical plan to take the rich off welfare and to directly address the root causes of inequity, like our broken criminal justice system and the lack of quality education for all Americans.

I was one of the original conveners of the Women’s Political Caucus, and I am still a part of the women’s movement. I am proud of the impact I’ve helped affect toward world peace, equality, environmental balance and economic opportunity. I was arrested for opposing South African

apartheid. I have marched against wars and for the equal rights amendment. I have fought for basic human rights for all peoples. I have actively participated in nearly a century of presidential campaigns from FDR to Barrack Obama. I have always made my political choices based on my core cultural values. I feel the Bern and I hope others who share similar values will help to ensure that Bernie’s values are the values of the Democratic Party and that my new great granddaughter, Madelyn, inherits a bright and hopeful future. I look forward to the continued infusion of our values in this presidential campaign and I and my grandson proudly support Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States.

LaDonna Harris, Citizen of the Comanche Nation, is founder and President of Americans for Indian Opportunity, a national nonprofit that advances the rights of Indigenous peoples in the United States and around the world. She has devoted her life to building coalitions that create change, and has been a consistent and ardent advocate on behalf of Tribal America. In addition, she continues her activism in the areas of civil rights, environmental protection, the women’s movement and world peace.

Samuel Fred Goodhope is a citizen of the Comanche Nation and an Inupiaq shareholder in the NANA Alaska Native regional corporation. A recent graduate of Central New Mexico Community College, Sam will attend the University of New Mexico this Fall where he will study Communications in the School of Journalism. He resides in Albuquerque with his wife Rachelle and their 6-month old daughter, Madelyn May.

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Sammy7's picture
Ladonna, I wish you also had mentioned "life". Life, all of life is the preeminent value. Bernie supports abortion, the killing of the unborn. This is the issue that keeps me from voting for Bernie. Trump supports life in the womb, but not all life. Clinton supports abortion too. So for persons like myself, who believe that all of life is related and precious, there are no candidates to vote for. Washington has gone from the Protestant shining city on a hill, to an openly and corrupt sewer, or was it always that way? Change will not come from Washington, change comes from the bottom, in the minds and hearts of people. Unfortunately the people too are corrupt today. That leaves it up to The Great Spirit. It is there that I place my prayers and trust.
cpenoi's picture
I'm glad that the spirit in you that seeks to affirm what is good in others remains strong in you. Bernie deserves respect for having fought for economic justice in a way that even he had reason to doubt would ever emerge from the periphery of American political life. Now that it has emerged, we have every right to take a measure of hope that Native issues might also, one day, receive their moment. However, this recognition has been eclipsed by the danger posed by Donald Trump. If, in your determination to praise a good man, even one Indian reading your post, decides not to vote for the person is is highly likely to be the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, a terrible disservice to the Indian people would have been done. A moment of extreme danger is upon us. No sentimentalizing about a good man can draw us from our need to keep the monster and his followers out of the White House.