indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Indian Law Online Master Degree
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Mark Trahant: It's past time for tribal leaders to govern the nation

Filed Under: Opinion | Politics
More on: 2014, alaska, alaska native, ancs, byron mallott, colville, democrats, elections, house, joe pakootas, mark trahant, washington
   


Byron Mallott speaks at the annual convention of the Alaska Federation of Natives. Photo from campaign website

Labor Day marks the beginning of the political campaign season. Sort of. If you live in a state with competitive races, then you have been watching TV ads for a long time.

Now we’re only two months away from Election Day and there is a sense of urgency.

So what does the election landscape look like for Indian Country?

First, before looking at policy, let’s consider people. Indian Country has a number of really interesting candidates this cycle, folks who are running at all levels of government.

At the state level, Byron Mallott is the Democratic primary winner in a three-way race for governor of Alaska. Mallott is Tlingit from the village of Yakutat and the former chief executive of Sealaska Corporation.

However there are reports Monday that this race might be shaken-up in a merger between Mallott and independent Bill Walker. If this happens, it will be before Tuesday to meet state balloting requirements.

The reason there is even talk of a merger is math. The incumbent governor, Republican Sean Parnell, won easily four years ago and is polling between 37 percent and 50 percent depending on how many candidates are considered. In a three-way race, Parnell’s poll numbers range from the high 30s to the low 40s, a considerable advantage over Walker and Mallott who are both in the 20s.

This state is rated as “safe Republican” by Real Clear Politics.

It still would be a long shot for Parnell to lose in a two-way race. Possible. But extremely difficult.

Why does this race matter to Indian Country? Alaska could be the shinning star when it comes to state-tribal relations. But that’s not the way it is. As I have written before, Parnell has been on the opposite side of nearly every issue that matters to Alaska Native communities. He rejected Medicaid expansion, something that would have created some 4,000 jobs and improved the funding for the Alaska Native medical system. On issues ranging from the Violence Against Women Act to the Katie John case, Parnell has been dismissive or outright hostile to tribal concerns.

Stay tuned in case there are developments this week.


Joe Pakootas, Colville, is the Democratic candidate for Washington’s 5th Congressional District. Photo from Facebook

At the congressional level, another race to keep an eye on is in Washington state.

Joe Pakootas is a former chairman of the Colville Confederated Tribes. His best selling point is that he was chief executive officer of the tribe’s enterprises. When he was hired, the businesses were stuck in debt and losing some $3 million a year. By 2013 the enterprises earned $86 million and won the University of Washington’s William D. Bradford Minority Business of the Year Award.

But Washington’s fifth district is a tough seat for any Democrat. His opponent, Cathy McMorris Rodgers is the only woman in the House GOP leadership. In her last election she won nearly 62 percent of the vote.

Why these two candidates matter to Indian Country?

Both Mallott and Pakootas are leaders who bring Native values into a larger conversation. This is not just candidates who happen to be Native American, but people who have worked within the Native Community, who have a history in Indian Country, and who will still be engaged regardless of the election.

This very idea is important because it’s a story that includes tribal governments and enterprises as part of a larger national discourse. When someone with a tribal background wins — and that will happen — then it will become a matter of routine to consider tribal leaders for Congress, the Senate or as governors, because of their experience in tribal government.

This is not new.

Some three decades ago, Mel Tonasket, another former chairman of the Colville Tribes, ran for the same House seat as Pakootas against the then Speaker of the House Thomas S. Foley, a Democrat. In order to bring attention to Native issus, Tonasket ran first as an independent in 1978 and then two years later as a Republican.

Tonasket had been president of the National Congress of American Indians.

Twenty years before that, Joe Garry, while president of NCAI, ran for the U.S. Senate from Idaho. The Couer d’Alene tribal leader entered the race because, his biographer said, “he told himself that it was his time.”

Running for the Senate was a natural step because Garry already understood the system, had political experience, and had earned a reputation for integrity, wrote John Fahey in the book, “Saving the Reservation, Joe Garry and the Battle to Be Indian.”

Then, and now, Indian Country has a deep talent pool. There are tribal leaders who govern remarkably well, often with fewer resources than their state or federal counterparts control. There is a spirit of innovation in many Native communities that’s worth highlighting and sharing. It’s time to learn from success stories.

Garry told NCAI members that “our strongest weapon is our vote. We must work to see that every eligible Indian is registered and votes in 1960.”

And so that challenge continues today. It’s our time.

Mark Trahant holds the Atwood Chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. For up-to-the-minute posts, download the free Trahant Reports app for your smart phone or tablet.


Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Urban Indian organization seeks new center (11/26)
Tentative schedule for White House Tribal Nations Conference (11/26)
White House invites youth to DC for Tribal Nations Conference (11/26)
Leslie Wheelock: Touting nation-to-nation trading and tourism (11/26)
Kevin Abourezk: A mystery of Indian agents with same name (11/26)
Michael Allen: My ancestor took part in Sand Creek Massacre (11/26)
Dean Suagee: EPA's Clean Power Plan affects Indian Country (11/26)
Mark Rogers: Finding something to be thankful for this holiday (11/26)
Former convicted leader of Crow Tribe seeks to clear his name (11/26)
Blackfeet Nation denies political motive in arrest of ex-leader (11/26)
Appeal set in dispute over Navajo Nation presidential hopeful (11/26)
Judge allows NFL team lawsuit against young Native activists (11/26)
NPR: Alaska Natives put traditional spin on Thanksgiving meal (11/26)
Column: Group helps rescue dogs from Pine Ridge Reservation (11/26)
First Nation offers reward for information about missing man (11/26)
First Nations face loss of funds over failure to submit salaries (11/26)
Santa Ysabel Band responds to state lawsuit over online bingo (11/26)
Citizen Potawatomi Nation to meet over liquor sales at casino (11/26)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe could lose casino's liquor license (11/26)
Mashantucket Tribe looks to shift revenues away from gaming (11/26)
Agua Caliente Band selects planner to revamp land near casino (11/26)
Washington gaming panel cuts jobs as non-Indian revenue falls (11/26)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe to issue IDs at tournament (11/25)
James Giago Davies: Polygamy and shunning in Lakota culture (11/25)
Ben Shelly: There's a lot to be thankful for on the Navajo Nation (11/25)
Cara Cowan Watts: Share the blessings of the Cherokee Nation (11/25)
Joe Sexton: BIA's 'ugly' land policies stuck in the 19th century (11/25)
Jenny Durkan: Cop who killed Native man wasn't charged either (11/25)
Oklahoma claims Citizen Potawatomi Nation must collect taxes (11/25)
Divided court won't extend Seneca Nation immunity to business (11/25)
Vice: North Dakota tribe sees $25M a month in energy royalties (11/25)
Members of Lumbee Tribe proud to carry on tradition of service (11/25)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe donates $10K to local food pantry (11/25)
Slate: Non-Indians were encouraged to move to tribal territory (11/25)
Column: Remains of Dakota man hanged in 1862 kept in home (11/25)
Family members plead guilty to thefts from reservation town (11/25)
Authorities investigate fatal crash involving Bad River officer (11/25)
Editorial: Yakama Nation must disclose plans for clean water (11/25)
Roy Burton: Montana tribe puts its people at risk with gaming (11/25)
Lawmaker asks BIA to wait on Cowlitz Tribe casino acquisition (11/25)
Gaming compacts on agenda for 2015 session in New Mexico (11/25)
Quapaw Tribe faces even more competition for Kansas casino (11/25)
Pala Band wins final approval for online gaming in New Jersey (11/25)
Mashantucket Tribe still thinking about Massachusetts casino (11/25)
Tim Giago: Cornflakes every Sunday at Indian boarding school (11/24)
Charles Trimble: A time to give thanks -- For whatever reason (11/24)
Mark Trahant: Incoming Alaska governor opens doors to tribes (11/24)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.