Bernie Sanders on the campaign trail.

The Only Presidential Candidate That Makes Indian Country a Priority: Native People Feeling the Bern

Gyasi Ross

UPDATED, MARCH 21, 2016: Removed reference to Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye endorsing Sen. Bernie Sanders. Begaye has not officially endorsed a candidate at this time.

Another great step for U.S. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in honoring and recognizing Native Americans.” - Deborah Parker, Tulalip

Last time we talked politics, it was to say that NEITHER Democratic candidate had done anything to show good faith toward Native people.  Sure, they both had a written document that made promises to Indian Country, but at that time neither candidate had invested any time, money or other resources toward Indian Country in their campaigns.

Well, that’s changed.  At least it’s changed for one candidate. 

Members of the Meskwaki Nation Singers listen as U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) talks to tribal members of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa/Meskwaki Nation during a campaign event at the Meskwaki Nation Settlement near Tama, Iowa, September 4, 2015. (Photo: REUTERS/Scott Morgan)

See, Hillary Clinton STILL has not shown one bit of investment into Indian Country (other than a conference call that probably cost two dollars)—no outreach people to Indian Country, no ads committed to Native people, no visits to Indian Country. 


Steven Paul Judd - Courtesy Photo

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders has shown a considerable willingness to invest in our communities.  From hiring a Native strategist (Nicole Willis—former Obama appointee, OG from the first Obama Campaign in 2008), to creating a platform that not only respects tribal sovereignty but also understands that Native people likewise have many of the same everyday struggles as the rest of America, Bernie is the one who is putting in the work in our communities. 

And speaking of “our communities,” he’s actually coming to our communities.  Clinton—like most mainstream presidential candidates throughout history—not only doesn’t mention Native communities or spend money on our communities, she sure as heck ain’t going to them.  Bernie is.  He’s been to the Meskwaki territories in Iowa (called the “Meskwaki Settlement”), to Navajo Territories (where he held a town hall).  Furthermore, Mrs. Jane Sanders visited the Oak Flat “to discuss the occupation by the Stronghold.”  Deborah Parker, Tulalip, calls this outreach, “Another great step for U.S. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in honoring and recognizing Native Americans.”  Based upon that outreach to Native communities, many, many tribal leaders have endorsed Bernie Sanders.

Twin Arrows Casino, 'Dine' all the way!' - Photo: Bloomberg

Those tribal leaders see that the Sanders campaign is putting it’s money where it’s mouth is.  In fact at this point, it’s a shock that there are still tribal leaders who don’t support Sanders. It begs the question: why wouldn’t those tribal leaders, who have the best interests of their Native communities at heart, support the ONLY candidate who has shown a commitment to Indian Country in policy, campaigning, rhetoric AND presence?  It’s not even close—Bernie’s the only one who has done that.

Forget pragmatic politics and political favors and cynical allegiances—this is about the best candidate for our people, Native people.  As such, it’s not even close—Bernie is the only candidate worth mentioning.

Courtesy Angelica Molina - Twin Arrows Casino 'Dine' all the way!'

"And when I think about the way this country, from way back when (from the beginning of this country), has treated Native Americans, it is an absolute disgrace. It is not acceptable. The treaties have been broken, the people have been cheated. Today we have the Native American community experiencing some of the highest rates of unemployment, some of the lowest quality education, some of the most inadequate healthcare in this country. That is not acceptable. If elected president, we will treat the Native American community with the respect [they need.]" - Bernie Sanders

Wesley Roach, Skan Photography

Gyasi Ross, Editor at Large

Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories

Twitter: @BigIndianGyasi

Instagram: BigIndianGyasi


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Grayhorse's picture
Submitted by Grayhorse on
I hope you're right about Bernie Sanders keeping his word. He's giving all of this stuff away free, and nothing is free, some where it going to cost us. I think he's telling everyone what they want to hear, not what they should hear. It's just like Hillary Clinton telling everyone what they can expect, and it will not happen. So Beware!

cpenoi's picture
Submitted by cpenoi on
It's one thing to live with injustice. It is another to believe that having the injustice acknowledge by white men is of value. Bernie wants the injustice of Native America added to the voices of others who feel they are unjustly treated. Frankly, I think that every time we have gone to the white man about injustice, we are played for fools. If, when your people see what you have done and they judge that you have helped your people, then you can sit back and say to yourself that your life was lived correctly. That's what my grandfather and my father did. That's what I hope to do.

turbojesus's picture
Submitted by turbojesus on
Not true. Hillary Clinton made barking noises on the campaign trail in Nevada; it was shown in a Trump ad. I'm sure that's her way of talking to Native Americans. Like how Obama talks to native americans "voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don't look like us or pray like us or vote like we do or share the same background.” during state of the union. Who could believe anything these people say? No one ever superseded by statute the ability of the government to force negative eugenics on people but they did get rid of the lawful resistance to arrest. And people want the government to run healthcare?

whitehorse's picture
Submitted by whitehorse on
Hillary has NEVER cared about American Indians, look up her previous stance on American Indians when she ran against Obama. Hillary only promised to look at the GI Bill since many American Indians serve in the military. Look at all the promises Bill made as president when he visited Pine Ridge! Bill never kept one promise and this can be proven since Leonard Peltier is still in jail! Feel the Bern American Indians if you want a voice in Washington!

bullbear's picture
Submitted by bullbear on
Bernie Sanders has several great platforms that he speaks upon and they are akin to fairness for the working class of all Americans and a message that what is needed is to drive a wedge into the policies that only make the rich richer by means of unfair tax provisions. It does not take a rocket scientest to see that all this unfairness is derivative from elected politicians who promised they would do justice to all Americans - which is all horse pucky! Sanders has his heart and mind in the right place when it comes to aiding in the endless needs of Native American tribes. However, in my personal opinion, the forthcoming party conventions will have Clinton and Trump facing off. Clinton has way too much arsenal in her years of experience in Congress and that will lead to Trump falling flat on his backside. I love you Bernie for bringing light to the consistently overlooked Native American unmet needs. However as a lifelong, steadfast, Democrat - Clinton will be the best that we have going for Native America which is not saying a whole helluvalot at this moment in time.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
We're so used to being lied to and mistreated that we'll HAPPILY look a gift horse in the mouth. Those of you who think Sander's words may be empty look into his past; he marched with Martin Luther King for equal rights in the 60s. He stood with Hillary Clinton when she first proposed national health care (although she acted as though he hadn't - a photo with him standing DIRECTLY BEHIND HER showed Hillary was lying), and he's spoken out about Trump's xenophobia. We are right to remain skeptical, our history has taught us that, but when someone is apparently "walking the walk," we should drop our guard just enough to sense what's in his heart. My heart tells me he is (at least) TRYING to be sincere. It's no secret to us how few of us there are compared to other minorities. It's no secret to us that we're often found besieged by poverty and huddled in the most rural areas. It's no secret to us that we generally DON'T do well under a Conservative government. Well, here is a man (a little old man) who is courting our votes - certainly all politicians do this, but how many of them do it among our people? I would say, Give Bernie a chance, what have you got to lose, but then what you HAVE to lose is everything. Don't think for a minute that Donald Trump (or any of the assholes in the GOP clown car) cares a single bit about you or your family. They've proven it by continuing to ignore us. Hillary Clinton is also ignoring us (there aren't enough of us for her to bother with). Do yourself a favor vote for Bernie!

cpenoi's picture
Submitted by cpenoi on
The thoughts and feeling of people in some societies are closer to those of Native Americans than others. Unfortunately, white Americans are not one of these. If it is to be a white in power, it is better to have one who can restrain those indifferent to our rights as independent societies from running roughshod over us. If you want understanding, look to your own people. If you want a greater measure of security in this political season, look to those whites who know how to restrain their fellows. You must face the fact that, in American, an intense commitment to human rights by a white politician like Bernie only inflames the hatred of us by intolerant whites. Better to support a work-a-day problem solver like Hillary, who is hated by other whites for being a woman who doesn't know her place (which is very wrong), than to have us hated for being the object of her sympathy. She will help us in her way when she can and not make things worse by wringing her hands in public over our plight.