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Who will win the 2016 presidential vote in Indian country?
Tuesday, March 08 2016
 
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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Bernie or Hillary?

On the GOP side, I’m sure that some Indians like what they are hearing from the five contenders still standing, as of late February. The Republicans inhabit a political continuum from daffy to dangerous; but different strokes for different folks, I guess.

For example, Donald Trump, an equal opportunity offender, seems to hate Indians because tribal casinos compete with his gaming operations. In 1993, Trump testified before House Native American Affairs subcommittee, which was investigating press reports on organized crime and policing in Indian casinos. “They don’t look like Indians to me,” said Trump, regarding the leaders of the Mashantucket Pequot Nation, which runs the lucrative Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. “They don’t look like Indians to Indians.”

According to a report in the Huffington Post last year: “Trump’s remarks went on for an hour, and included unsubstantiated allegations that the mafia had infiltrated Indian casinos. Many in Congress were shocked by Trump’s irresponsibility.”

Then there’s Ted Cruz, who recently has become the champion of the Sagebrush Rebellion in Nevada – Cliven Bundy and his comrades. In a recent 30-second TV spot, the ultra-right-wing Texas senator takes the side of those Nevadans, the Bundys and their ilk, who have been fomenting some kind of anti-federal uprising. “If you trust me with your vote, I will return full control of Nevada’s lands to its rightful owners, its citizens. Count on it,” Cruz proclaims.

“Count on it? Rightful owners? The whole Sagebrush Rebel narrative misses the point that tribes in the region have called the area home for more than 10,000 years and if there’s any claim to rightful ownership then it’s the first owners who have the rightful claim,” Mark Trahant recently responded on his blog (trahantreports.com).

Trahant, a distinguished journalist and member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, went on to mention that William Anderson, a former Moapa tribal chairman, asked Sen. Bernie Sanders about extending stronger federal protection to lands in Nevada, including Gold Butte, which the Nuwuvi, the Southern Paiutes, and others, would like to be classified as a national monument.

At an MSNBC Town Hall, Sanders responded positively to Anderson’s informed question about how the U.S. government could do more to stop corporations “from destroying Mother Earth.”

“I don’t have to explain to you, or I hope anybody in this room, or anybody watching the outrageous way, unfair way, that governments have treated Native Americans from day one,” Sanders responded. “It is a disgrace.”

Sanders is now running a TV commercial that proclaims his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and fracking for natural gas, and promotes his vision of a shift to a “clean energy future.”

At the beginning of the Sanders spot, there’s a brief glimpse of Tara Houska, who was named as a Native American advisor to the Sanders campaign in late February. She will join Nicole Willis (Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation) in writing a Native American policy platform and recruiting members for a policy advisory committee for the Vermont senator’s presidential campaign.

During a recent phone chat, Houska, who’s Ojibwe from the Couchiching First Nation (north of International Falls in Canada) mentioned that she spoke alongside Sanders at a Capitol Hill press conference last November. “That’s actually how I got involved in the campaign,” Houska commented. The press conference publicized Sanders’ sponsorship of the Keep It in the Ground Act, “which bans fossil fuel construction on public lands and waters, and stops Arctic drilling.”

As the national campaign director of Honor the Earth, the Indigenous environmental group founded by Winona LaDuke, Houska provided information on pressing environmental issues to Sanders’ Senate office. A graduate of the University of Minnesota and the U of M Law School, Houska also mentioned that she has been active in the campaign against Indian mascots and symbols in sports.

Regarding the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, Houska noted that Sanders, in his congressional career, has made environmental justice and economic equity, reining in the influence of Wall Street, the “foundational cornerstones” of his politics.

“He is not afraid to recognize that climate change is, first of all, real, and second of all, that we have to do something about it in a very significant way,” she said.

Referring to the previously mentioned TV commercial, Houska pointed out that Sanders states that he is “against fracking, entirely… Hillary Clinton just came out in support of natural gas; that’s not indicative of a move away from fossil fuels to a green economy.”


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