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News > Latin America

US: Meet The Native American Women Running for Office This Year

  • Deb Haaland is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and can become the first Native American women in the U.S. congress.

    Deb Haaland is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and can become the first Native American women in the U.S. congress. | Photo: debforcongress.com

Published 4 July 2018

These women are standing up against bigotry for a better world.

In these midterm elections there is a considerable number of Native Americans running for different offices, which also aim to represent the most underrepresented communities in Trump's administration, and some of the most interesting ones are women.


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In a white male-dominated politicial scene, women like Deb Haaland, Peggy Flanagan, Sharice Davids, Paulette Jordan and Tatewin Means are making history by giving a voice to those unheard.

“I have a track record of standing up to Donald Trump, and I will continue to hold him and Republicans accountable,” Haaland says describing herself in her campaign website.

A member of the Laguna Pueblo of New Mexico and a Democrat who hopes to become the first Native American woman in Congress, Haaland aims to represent those who don't have a voice in New Mexico, to promote clean energy, improve education and help small businesses grow in the state.

A single mother, she earned her PhD in Indian Law in 2006 and worked on Obama's presidential campaigns before becoming Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

Deb Haaland with supporters in New Mexico. Photo | debforcongress.com

"I know what it's like to be on food stamps. My daughter and I both are paying off our student loans. So, I just felt like I know what it's like and we need more people who know what it's like to struggle,” she told NPR.

One of her main motives to run for office is the current government, which she says doesn't understand the trust responsibility between Native Americans and the U.S. government neither their history. She is one of the Democratic candidates aiming to shut down the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

In Minnesota there is Peggy Flanagan, from the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, an activist running for lieutenant governor. She has been a member of the state's congress since 2015 for the Democratic Party.

She earned a bachelor's degree in American Indian Studies and child psychology in 2002 and describes herself as an “advocate for Minnesota's children and families.” She has served as executive director of Children's Defense Fund in Minnesota and Wellstone Action's Native American Leadership Program.

"Minneapolis is the birthplace of the American Indian movement and we have incredible history as well as infrastructure," she told NPR. "Oftentimes, it's just ignorance... That we weren't given these rights. We always had them. Educating folks on issues of sovereignty."

In 2017, along with other Democratic representatives, she formed the People of Color and Indigenous causus to “improve the education, health and economic opportunities of people of color and indigenous communities across the state.”

And in Idaho, Paulette Jordan is running for governor against incumbent Republican Brad Little.

She is a member of the Coeur d'Alene and, if elected, could become the first ever Native American governor in the U.S. and also the youngest one, with only 38 years. After all, she already became the youngest person elected to her tribe's council.

She grew up on a farm in northern Idaho and got involved in grassroots activism since a young age. Her background and ideals have pushed her to fight for better rural education, wider access to healthcare and better economic opportunities for the poorest sectors of the state's society.

Her race is a difficult one, as Idaho has not had a democrat governor since 1990, but she already defeated a Republican in the 2014 elections for Idaho's congress.

In South Dakota, the former Attorney General for the Oglala Sioux Tribe Tatewin Means now aspires for the same position at state level.

“South Dakota is my homeland, I have a spiritual connection to the land, to the black hills, to the badlands, to Rapid City, to Sioux Falls, to the Sisitonwan area where my mother grew up and to the Yankton reservation where my grandmother— my namesake—lived. I have a commitment to making life better here for all South Dakotans because we must leave a better place for future generations. No matter age, race, religion, or class, I will fight for you,” she says in an open letter published at her campaign's site.

Tatewin Means, member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, is aiming to be South Dakota's Attorney-General. Photo | Facebook: @MeansforAG

Means has an extensive legal experience and is an expert on human rights, for which she has always advocated.

Her campaign boosted in popularity after a stunning political ad narrated completely in Lakota language and could possibly be the first politician to make an ad in any native language.

And we also have Sharice Davis, who used to be a Mixed Martial Arts fighter and is a lesbian, running for Kansas's Congress.

She has promised to fight for a tax cut on the middle class, improve access to public education, expand Medicaid, treat gun violence as a public health issue, promote renewable energy, protect DACA and recognize LGBTQI rights.

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