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  • Native American women candidates clockwise from bottom left, Sharice Davids, Peggy Flanagan, Deb Haaland, and Paulette Jordan.

    Native American women candidates clockwise from bottom left, Sharice Davids, Peggy Flanagan, Deb Haaland, and Paulette Jordan. | Photo: Facebook

Published 4 November 2018
Opinion

A total of 104 Native Americans are running for state and federal offices. Among them, 55 are women, and more than 75 candidates are Democrats.

The number of Native American candidates in the United States midterm elections on Nov. 6 is at an all-time high with 104 of them running for state and federal offices. Among them, 55 are women, and more than 75 candidates are Democrats. Together, they represent more than 50 of 753 federally-recognized Native American tribes in the U.S.

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"The Native folks on the ballot are getting lots of support, and I think that speaks volumes for our country," said Deb Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, and one of the candidates. If Haaland wins, it would put the first Native American woman in Congress in the history of the country.

Currently, the Native American population is underrepresented in the country despite comprising 2 percent of the U.S. population. Congress has two Republican representatives, Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee, and Tom Cole, Chickasaw, from Oklahoma. Both of them are seeking re-election.

If elected, Haaland said she would make sure to "impart some knowledge, some history, some perspective on any of my colleagues," and make sure tribal leaders are heard.

Coeur d'Alene tribal member Paulette Jordan is seeking to become Idaho's first Native American governor but the conservative state might not vote in her favor.

In Minnesota, Peggy Flanagan (Democrat) and Donna Bergstrom (Republican), both members of Ojibwe are vying for the post of lieutenant governor.

Sharice Davids a Democrat from Ho-Chunk Nation is proving to be a formidable candidate for a congressional seat in Kansas.

According to Mark Trahant, the editor of Indian Country Today, the number of Native American candidates for Tuesday’s elections have increased by 80 percent in congressional races and 300 percent for statewide offices. Trahant had been tracking this increase in candidature and, though, all candidates have different contexts which catapulted them to electoral politics, two common factors were traced.

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One, the Standing Rock protest against Dakota Access Pipeline which brought together a large number of Native Americans and led to a political awakening of a generation of activists.

The second is the Me too movement against sexual harassment and abuse.

Deb Haaland said, "Through the centuries women have been oppressed. We've been beat up and jailed and killed because we wanted the right to vote. We've been paid less than men for centuries."

She said Native American women have particular challenges including an "epidemic" of "missing and murdered native women".

Trahant will co-host a program on Native American candidates on election day. "It's needed because nobody's ever done it before," said Trahant who belongs to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe in Idaho.

Antonia Gonzales, anchor, and producer of public radio program National Native News will be joining Trahant to broadcast the results.

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