Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum Archives ...
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Four Directions, a Native American voting advocacy group run by Co-Executive Directors Barb & O.J. Semans, hosted the first "Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum," August 19 and 20 in Sioux City, Iowa. A non-partisan event, all major Democratic and Republican presidential candidates were invited to participate, including the president.
Voter turnout is growing in Indian country, and Semans said, "in an election that's likely to be close, there are several states where Native American voters can provide a winning margin," noting that Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina and Arizona, all have substantial Native populations.
Eleven Democratic hopefuls accepted the invitation to the historic event: best-selling author Marianne Williamson (the first to respond to the invitation to attend), Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Admiral Joe Sestak, Navajo Citizen Mark Charles, Former Congressman John Delaney, Secretary Julian Castro, and Senator Bernie Sanders addressed questions and concerns from a panel amidst a sea of tribal flags.
Senator Kamala Harris, Governor Steve Bullock, and Mayor Bill de Blasio, attended via internet, according to the New Yorker.
Semans noted, "The media coverage was significant but what really left an impression was the high-minded questioning of candidates by Tribal leaders and the depth of knowledge, understanding and support from the field of candidates."
Focal topics included voting rights, survival of sacred sites, US Census undercounts of tribal members, economic development, housing, education, healthcare, climate justice and the Remove the Stain Act. Every hopeful supported the proposed Congressional legislation which would rescind medals given to soldiers for the Wounded Knee massacre. (Click here for article on OEN.)
First-term U.S. Rep. and Laguna Pueblo member, Deb Haaland (D-NM), introduced Elizabeth Warren as "my sister in the struggle." She addressed the issues of Warren's heritage as a distraction, noting, "I say that every time (the media) ask about Elizabeth's family instead of the issues of vital importance to Indian Country, they feed the President's racism," according to the New Yorker.
Judith LeBlanc, director of the Native Organizers Alliance, a co-host of the forum, said, "we are going from protest to power."
Monday, Aug. 19:
9 am Marianne Williamson
10 am Elizabeth Warren