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One of the candidates in the North Dakota Senate race has a platform on Native American issues, Heidi Heitkamp. She has met with the Tribes and appointed a Native American to her campaign staff, attorney Diane Johnson, a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes to assist in her Native American outreach. Heitkamp has also stood up for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and she promises to make sure a farm bill is passed for the farmers of North Dakota. She is also emphasizing her opposition to the GOP Ryan Budget which has sharp reductions in federal spending which will affect Indian country more severely because of the high unemployment and lack of opportunities on the reservation. While the National unemployment rate has dropped to 7.8%, the unemployment rate in Indian country is anywhere from 20% to 70% plus. Berg on the other hand has supported the Ryan Budget, which would negatively affect his Native American constituency.
Berg currently does not have a Native American link on his House page, nor any information on his Berg for Senate website discussing his position on issues that are important to his Native American constituency. Of the hundreds of statements and releases he has issued in Congress, only one joint statement with Senators Hoeven and Conrad about the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe sex abuse issue, dealt with Native Americans. Requests to Berg's office have been answered and hopefully Berg's position on Native American issues will be forthcoming and a follow-up article is anticipated.
For the Democrat, former Attorney General Heitkamp to win, she is going to have to hold her own in North Dakota against Berg for the non-Indian vote and stay within a percentage point or two of the estimated 315,000 votes that are typically cast in presidential election years, and that Heitkamp can overwhelm by winning the Native American vote with 80% plus (which tend to vote for Democrats in the 80-95% range), which could help her overcome a 2-3% deficit. She will also need the Native Americans to vote early and in higher percentages than they have in previous elections.
Berg is going to have to reach out to the Native American population like South Dakota's GOP Senator John Thune. Granting access to Native Americans, having an open office and open ear to their issues, as well as appointing a Native American in his office and create outreach programs to adequately represent his Native American constituency.
Historically Native Americans have faced extreme prejudice when it comes to voter suppression, with States like South Dakota preventing Native Americans from voting until 1975, and the pending lawsuit in Montana where three Tribes are suing the State to give access to remote Native American tribes for early and absentee voting. North Dakota Native Americans are well aware of what is transpiring in Indian country, and in this election they have the opportunity to impact the race for the United States Senate. While other Native Americans across the country have the opportunity to let their voices be heard loud and clear and impact races in Montana, Washington, and New Mexico, we are not going to sit back and let others make decisions for us that affect us, and we will vote.
Theron "Scarlet Raven" Thompson is an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate (Dakota Sioux) of the Lake Traverse Reservation. He publishes articles on Tribal Issues, Energy, Economic Development, Business, Gaming, and Marketing. He can be reached at www.scarletravenpowwow.blogspot.com
posted October 29, 2012 10:20 am edt