Suzette Brewer

#NativeVote2016: Republican National Convention Opens in Cleveland

Suzette Brewer

On Monday, Cleveland, Ohio became the center of the universe when the 2016 Republican National Convention officially opened in one of the most hotly contested presidential races in half a century. On a day marked by continued Republican infighting, convention chaos and charges of plagiarism, the city became a global village as delegates, protesters, law enforcement and media from around the world descended on the Rust Belt city of nearly 400,000.

RELATED: ICTMN at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions

Yesterday morning, the convention stumbled out of the gate as rogue delegates attempted to force a roll call vote on rules which would allow the delegates to “vote their conscience” with the ultimate goal of blocking Trump's nomination. The failed effort quickly descended into shouting matches on the convention floor which culminated in a walkout by the entire delegations from Colorado and Iowa.

While the drama on the convention floor unfolded, Trump and Ohio Governor John Kasich were at each others' throats trading barbs over the fact that not only has Kasich refused to endorse Trump, but also declined to attend the convention in his own state.

Meanwhile, outside the Quicken Loans Arena, protesters and supporters of Trump engaged in scattered rallies in downtown Cleveland, joined by a cacophony of other voices pressing a wide array of political, religious and social viewpoints in a festival-like atmosphere as hundreds of state and federal law enforcement officials kept a vigilant watch for any potential trouble.

RELATED: Seen and Heard: Day 1 at the RNC

As yesterday's events played out, tribal leaders and their delegations also quietly turned up in Cleveland, their presence an important reminder that Indian country has an important stake in the electoral process in the United States because of the myriad public policy issues that directly affect tribal nations. Historically, tribal nations have had a relationship with the President and Congress since the beginning of the Republic, in spite of the fact that they were only granted U.S. citizenship less than a hundred years ago.

In recent years, however, tribal nations have become more active in their efforts to improve voter registration, and by getting more involved in local, state and national races, as well as running for office. Significantly, 2016 is a record-breaking year for Native candidates, with nearly 100 candidates in state and local races across the country, including Edgar Blatchford, who is running for U.S. Senate in Alaska, as well as Denise Juneau and Chase Iron Eyes, both of whom are running for congressional seats in Montana and North Dakota, respectively.

As the convention enters its second day, the Trump campaign is roiling in fallout from yesterday's chaos both inside and outside the convention, as well as charges that Melania Trump's closing speech had been plagiarized from Michelle Obama's 2008 convention speech, which were nearly identical. The Trump campaign has denied the charges.

According to the RNC, the convention has daily themes, which feature “veterans, political outsiders, faith leaders and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s family members will lead an unconventional lineup of speakers who have real-world experience and will make a serious case against the status quo and for an agenda that will make America great again.”

Today's convention theme, “Make America Work Again,” features headlining speeches from Donald Trump Jr., U.S. Senator Shelley Moore (R-WV), Ben Carson and Kimberlin Brown.

Visit Indian Country Today Media Network for further convention updates. Follow Suzette Brewer on twitter @suzette_brewer and on Instagram @suzettebrewer for ongoing convention coverage.

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