Suzette Brewer
Peggy Flanagan, White Earth citizen and Minnesota State Representative became first Native Woman to address DNC from the podium.

Peggy Flanagan, White Earth, Addresses DNC

Suzette Brewer

On the night Hillary Clinton will become the first female presidential candidate of a major party in U.S. history, White Earth citizen and Minnesota State Representative Peggy Flanagan also made history as the first Native woman to address the Democratic National Convention from the podium.

It was an emotional night across Indian Country as Flanagan spoke about her concerns regarding the negative campaign rhetoric from Republican nominee Donald Trump toward American Indians and her hopes and dreams for her own three-year-old daughter, Siobhan, to whom she read a letter from the podium.

“Your name is not Pocahontas. It is Siobhan Ma’iingan, and you should never let anyone make you feel anything less than proud of who you are.

“Because, despite everything that has happened to our people, and no matter what Donald Trump says, we are still here. And I want you to grow up with our people’s values: honoring our elders, showing gratitude to our warriors, cherishing our children as gifts from the creator.”

In closing, she wanted her daughter to know that she may one day “be the first Native American President.”

Immediately after her speech, Flanagan went to find her mentor on the convention floor, Cecilia Fire Thunder, former president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota.

“I had to find Cecilia, because I know how hard she worked and fought so I could stand on this stage,” said Flanagan, wiping a tear from her eye. “It means so much that we were invited to be here on the last night of the convention, when Hillary will be accepting the nomination. It took so much work from so many people and I’m truly honored and humbled to be a part of it.”

Flanagan is one of hundreds of Indian people in Philadelphia this week, which has seen a record turnout by the nation’s federally recognized tribal nations. According to the Clinton campaign, out of 4,766 DNC delegates, there are 147 American Indians, whose presence has been felt throughout the convention. Starting with the Native American Council on Monday, the Native American Caucus on Wednesday and inclusion in nearly every major speech, tribes have been very active in organizing other events throughout the city.

Additionally, Native women had a particularly strong presence at the convention, including former Tulalip vice chair Deborah Parker, who spearheaded the writing of the Native American plank within the DNC platform, and Jodi Gillette and Kim Teehee, both of whom were senior policy advisors to President Obama on the Domestic Policy Council.

As the DNC concludes, Flanagan will return home, where she wants to build on the momentum from the convention to begin advocating for both rural and urban Natives in Minnesota.

“For the first time ever, we have organized an urban native coalition to move an agenda to move policy in the state house,” Flanagan said. “As we move forward, we want to make sure the Native people of Minnesota are seen and that urban Natives also have a voice because there’s a lot of work to do in ensuring that they have a quality of life.”

Flanagan also said that Susan Allen (Rosebud) is the only other Native in the Minnesota State House, but that two other Native women, Mary Kunesh-Podein (Standing Rock Lakota) and Jamie Becker Finn (Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe), are running for seats this fall, along with Chilah Brown (Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe), who is running for the Minnesota Senate.

“For the first time ever, we will have a Native American caucus in Minnesota,” said Flanagan. “And along with our new state Supreme Court Justice Anne McKeig, it is a great push forward for the tribes in Minnesota.”

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But tonight, Flanagan is basking in her historic moment in the sun.

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“At the end of my speech, my husband sent me a picture of my three-year-old daughter watching me on television,” said Flanagan. “That’s why I do what I do.”

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