Image by Steven Paul Judd
Thomas is the only candidate who really deserves Native support so far.

A Few Notes For Native People About The Presidential Elections: Neither Democrat Deserves Our Vote (Yet)

Gyasi Ross

"Combine Indigenous and general public voter blocks.  Walk together in support of change.  Vote unanimously for freedom."

- Leonard Peltier

Make no mistake about it, in presidential elections Native people are an afterthought.  Meaning: as much as you (or I) may be invested in Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, they’re simply not thinking about your Native ass. 

Personally, I support Bernie Sanders in this upcoming election because his record shows that he has more concern and policy support for poor people generally than Hillary Clinton. Hillary, as has been well-chronicled, has been a dear, beloved friend of the wealthy and that’s why Wall Street donors line up to give her truckloads of money.  Rich people love Hillary.  Maybe they don’t love her quite as much as they love Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, but they love her quite a bit because she’s shown an undying allegiance to them. 

Despite my support for Sanders the truth is that neither candidate has really said anything or done anything for Native people or for our communities.  Sanders released some generic statement on Native pledges, and also very cooly,  recently introduced legislation to stop the transfer of the Oak Flats. The Oak Flats piece is cool but hasn't gone anyplace... still that is much, much more than what Clinton has done.  She hasn’t done anything.  

We have to require more.

It’s an interesting contrast because right now both candidates are pandering shamelessly to black voters. I watched the Democratic Debate last night and it was entertaining to watch Hillary Clinton try to attach herself to President Obama’s hip; this is the same Obama who her campaign supporters accused of “shuckin’ and jivin’” at press conferences.  This was the same Obama whom Bill Clinton accused of creating fairy tales and essentially accused of being a liar.  Lots of loaded language, dog whistle stuff.

But now she’s all about Obama—that’s her dude.  And she’s all about the black community—even doing her own shuck and jive, dancing and showing how hip and pro-black she is.

Screen cap Ellen Show

History shows that she’s none of those things.  She has a long history of being neither hip nor pro-black. 

Moreover, the Nevada primary is coming up quick and both candidates will soon be pandering to our Latina/o brothers and sisters.  I suspect that we’ll probably Hillary immersed in Latina/o culture and Bernie Sanders won’t be immune to that either.  That’s fine—I hope they continue to court our black sisters and brothers and also our Latina/or sisters and brothers.  Good—I get it.  I’m glad they’re power is being recognized.  Plus, they are a bigger demographic than Natives.  Yet, if those candidates truly value our community, the relative size should not matter. 

But understand that they won’t be even looking toward the Native community unless there’s an extremely close race.  Obama, in 2008, knew that it would be a very close race and that he needed every possible delegate that he could get his hands on.  We’re glad—despite my many critiques of Obama, he unquestionably ended up being the best president ever for Native people.  Conversely, Hillary was supposed to blow out Bernie Sanders this year and so she had no need to talk to us at all.  So we need to remember this time—February—when nobody at all has contacted our community directly (except for some impersonal videos at the NCAI Conference) and make both candidates answer why we’re always the last people that they contact during their races. 

Yes, the Republicans are destructive. We know that. But that’s not the test. The test has to be “when are Democrats going to value/cater to Native people the same way that they value/cater to the black community/Latino community?” 

Native people simply shouldn’t give our vote away to people who don’t value us; if we don’t require some level of commitment, we’re selling ourselves horribly short. 



 Wesley Roach, Skan Photography

Gyasi Ross, Editor at Large

Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories

Twitter: @BigIndianGyasi

Instagram: BigIndianGyasi


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tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
The test has to be “when are Democrats going to value/cater to Native people the same way that they value/cater to the black community/Latino community?” Native people simply shouldn’t give our vote away to people who don’t value us; if we don’t require some level of commitment, we’re selling ourselves horribly short. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> A $20 TRILLION DOLLAR Federal Deficit! An Oil Market on the verge of 're-inventing' itself. The patterned-cycled US War/Conflicts every 10 years. How about Govt. reported 11 MILL+ (true number: 20 MILL+) illegal Hispanic aliens in the US right now. a 100 MILL (of 300 MILL) out of work, out of a job, given up. The list could go on. American Indian Tribes and people would have better luck finding a three-legged ballerina than wait to be valued or "catered too" (as young Gyasi believes). It needs to be mentioned, when was the last time Tribal peoples or for that matter these young, bring "endian activists" have even encountered or challenged American Indian Tribal Leadership and Officials? There is plenty of money, funds, allocations, appropriations (Tribal, private, some Federal) at these annual gatherings (RES, NCAI, Indian Health, etc.) The big "debate" concerning disenrollment is obvious for NCAI to encounter and talk about - yet they are relatively quiet about it? Why? More than 570+ Federal Indian Tribes and their representative Indian Governments, and how much US Federally Funded Tax-dollars and Tribal Resource MONEY (set aside in the name of Indian people) is being wasted, abused, lost, squandered, cheated, mis-managed, mis-appropriated….all away….all lost….all never to be recovered. We all know their stories, events, places: Navajo, Shoshane, Narragannsett, kialegee, Sac and Fox, chipawa, blackfeet, etc. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> $20 TRILLION Dollar Deficit: Early (Democrat) TV commercials televised and emphasized the role our elementary children would play PAYING the George W. Bush federal deficits (at $ 7-8 TRILL). Those kids were working in the factories, and manufacturing plants (tired looking, wiping their foreheads, looking sad). 10 years laters. What's changed? Where is and their TV commercials about how TODAY's generation of children will be stuck with PAYING THE FEDERAL DEFICIT. Oil Market: With the price of cheap oil, and role the United States has played (stategically) in price-setting, don't you think countries, (Saudi Arabia versus Iran/Iraq) will be looking to protect their interests - even if it means devising or implementing proxy wars? Cyclic Wars: The last US war was 2008 - upsurge, this next US president will be jockeying and putting US credibility for the International scene to witness, i.e. "we are back!" - US monstriousity (Sanders - Clinton). Going to War again for the wrong reasons and at the expense of again, young US Lives. Illegal ALiens: See the power and might of 20+ MILLION illegal aliens and their influence on US politics, i.e. via US Latino, Hispanic Affairs….Que Pasa…Viva Revolucion!!! Americans out of Work: 100 MILLION out of jobs, out of work, staying home. Given up on such a sour US economy. You never hear the US TV news reports on these people. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Doom and Gloom….yes, but obviously needs to be mentioned despite the fashion and manner with how young Gyaazi likes to propagate. "if we don’t require some level of commitment, we’re selling ourselves horribly short." Even young Gyzaa emphasizes the role of Native people - accountability and responsiblity to ourselves. This is soo true than to rely again, and again, and again on US Federal han.……appropriations that only Native/Tribal/Organizational Indian Rights Groups (NCAI) are left to squander, waste, spend, cheat, hide, party, travel way. Isn't it about time that Indian Tribal GOvernemnts and groups as the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) are held accountable and looked at, valued, measured, guided? If Black groups/Hispanic groups and their governments, leaders, organizations can hold accountable or REPORT their officials for mis-handling, then certainly NCAI or people as yuoung Gyazii can take the lead. Why should WE again have to rely on a Bernie Saunders or HillBilly Clinton or even one of those…wwww- Republicans….to carry the message. There are FIVE examples of why the United States isn't interested in internal US American Affairs, and the Black-Americans will be lied to once again - you would think that after 8 years of Barack Obama, black people would have learned.

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
Try to guess whose going to pay Barack Obama's $10 TRILLION (reported) Federal Deficit?

WSullivan's picture
Submitted by WSullivan on
Another discouraging aspect to this, and one that long predates the current Presidential election campaign, is the almost complete lack of coverage of Native American issues by the mainstream media. If there were mainstream media coverage, it would be much more difficult for Presidential candidates to ignore these issues - but how to get that coverage? ************************************************************************************** Here is one possibility. The mainstream media always covers what the President does, and they follow him wherever he goes. In 2009, the President signed a defense authorization bill that contained an “Apology to Native Peoples of the United States” (buried on page 45 of the bill): To my knowledge, this apology has never been read in public, and probably for this reason, most people don’t even know that it exists. What if a petition (campaign) were started at with a simple request: that the President read this apology from the Oval Office on national television during prime time in 2016, preferably long before Presidential election day? If the petition gets 100,000 signatures, the White House must respond - and it could always choose to respond with fewer signatures. Since what the President does is usually a topic of conversation in any Presidential election campaign, especially when the campaign reaches the general election phase, a public reading of this apology would help ensure coverage of Native American issues which in turn would challenge candidates to respond in a substantive way. Although the “official” apology also contains a legal disclaimer to ensure no legal liability (read: reparations), any increased media attention to the apology would inevitably also lead to the question of reparations which the candidates would be challenged to take a position on. It should be noted that a much more detailed and more compelling version of the apology was introduced to the Senate in 2009, but it never passed: ******************************************************************************* Regarding the above and the current Presidential candidates, it is interesting to note that Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author of a 2014 article advocating reparations for African Americans – an article that was covered by the mainstream media - said he will be voting for Bernie Sanders, despite the fact that Sanders is reportedly not in favor of reparations. In arguing the case for reparations, the author states: ********************************************************************************* “An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future.” [] ********************************************************************************* The same article also cites a bill introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative John Conyers, Jr. “to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.” [] The author states that, although Representative Conyers has introduced this bill at every session of Congress for the past 25 years, and although the bill simply authorizes the commission of a study, the bill has “never made it to the House floor.” ********************************************************************************** Strategizing on how to get more mainstream media attention of Native American issues – and also making sure that the coverage is accurate and complete - is a challenge worth taking on.

OnceASioux's picture
Submitted by OnceASioux on
It's all about numbers. AI/AN are about 2% of the U.S. population. Candidates will never pay attention to the tribes unless they happen to have us in their heart.

WSullivan's picture
Submitted by WSullivan on
True, but in a close election (e.g., Bernie and Hillary), 2% could make a difference. Also, small numbers that are mobilized can have more impact than large numbers that are complacent.

waprog2's picture
Submitted by waprog2 on
I also blame the media. I get my Native news from friends, the internet, Seminole Tribune and ICT. It would be so nice to read what is going on in the national or even local news. As far as finding allies, I finally figured out that Latinos from anyplace in the Americas are also Native, and what a lot of potential allies. Another group who will nearly always side with the BIA recognized Tribes and issues are US BIA disapproved Native people. Contrary to what they want you to believe, once we learn what the real situation is, we do not want your land or money. Most of us want: The right to ignore the BIA in our lives, to say who we are without taking what you recognized folks have been promised, to help you get what you were promised, and the preserve the culture. If Y'all would please be patient with those of us just learning, because not knowing causes people to sometimes say dumb things, if we could get a voting block of every Native in the USA, recognized or not, and include Latinos, they'd sit up and take notice.

Old Lady's picture
Old Lady
Submitted by Old Lady on
Um, everyone must vote as he or she sees fit...but surely anyone or even anything is better than the Donald!

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
I'd like to add a couple of things to the list of things you can generally count on: 1. Taxes, 2. Death, 3. the racism and xenophobia of Conservatives and 4. the fact that Conservatives are so verbose in spite of their lack of word usage skills, grammar skills, knowledge of English, punctuation skills . . . etc. Get a brain, Morans! ;)

Grayhorse's picture
Submitted by Grayhorse on
Beware of Hillary and Bernie, they only need you and promise you everything until they get elected, then Natives are forgotten.

Ojibway Turtle Mountains's picture
Ojibway Turtle ...
Submitted by Ojibway Turtle ... on
To know who to vote for you only need to look. Who is more for the poor people, the Republicans or the Democrats?