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Indian Country again shares stage on final night of Democratic National Convention

Filed Under: National | Politics
More on: 2016, democrats, dnc, donald trump, eddie paul torres, elections, frank lamere, hillary clinton, languages, paul torres, peggy flanagan, pueblo, republicans, shawn bordeaux, stereotypes, women

Minnesota State Rep. Peggy Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Nation, speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 28, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com

The Democratic National Convention concluded on Thursday with a historic acceptance speech from Hillary Clinton after a week of events in which Indian Country took a prominent role.

The final day started off with an invocation that featured Eddie Paul Torres Sr., the governor of Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico. He shared a prayer in the Tiwa language before offering remarks in English.

"Please, help us to appreciate our diversity, to respect differences in our cultures, traditions, beliefs, and to show tolerance and understanding of others, as we grapple with the critical issues facing our country," said Torres, who was wearing traditional Pueblo clothing for the occasion. "Give us the strength to put aside our differences, and unite in the face of challenges and adversity.

"Help us to make this country, and the world, a more just, safer, and healthier place for all humankind," Torres said [Audio on Indianz.Com SoundCloud]. "Teach us to respect Mother Earth, recognizing the wonderful way that she can provide for us when we do so."

Isleta Pueblo Gov. Paul Torres helped deliver the invocation at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 28, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com

Within the first hour, Minnesota State Rep. Peggy Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Nation took the stage. In a short yet powerful speech that was styled as a hopeful message to her daughter, she managed to mention tribal elders, thank Native warriors, promote Native youth, confront stereotypes, touch on the historical mistreatment of indigenous peoples and address the federal government's trust responsibility.

"Your name is not Pocahontas. It is Siobhan Ma’iingan, and you should never let anyone make you feel anything less than proud of who you are," Flanagan said. Ma’iingan is the Ojibwe word for wolf, who is considered the brother of humankind.

"Because despite everything that has happened to our people, and no matter what Donald Trump says, we are still here," Flanagan added in a direct response to Republican presidential Donald Trump, who has repeatedly used "Pocahontas" as a slur and who has questioned the identity of indigenous peoples.

Flanagan concluded her remarks with "Chi Migwetch" or "Big thank you" in the Ojibwe language. [Audio on Indianz.Com SoundCloud].

Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez, a delegate for the state of Arizona, celebrates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as Hillary Clinton accepts her party's nomination for president on July 28, 2016. Photo by Jonathan Nez

The invocation and speech capped four days of events that underscored the ways Democrats undertook to ensure that the first Americans were represented in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That commitment came from the top -- Leah Daughtry, the CEO of the 2016 convention, worked with tribal citizens and party activists to include Indian Country in the program.

The convention itself drew a sizable Native contingent. Nearly 150 tribal citizens served as official delegates, both for Clinton and for Bernie Sanders, a number that appears to be a record amount. Beyond that, dozens more Native people -- including a strong presence from the Cherokee Nation and the Navajo Nation, the two largest federally recognized tribes -- attended the event, held every four years.

"I think this is a great experience," said South Dakota State Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in an interview on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center, where most of the convention activity took place.

"It's exciting being a part of it," said Bordeaux, who is believed to be the first person to ever speak the Lakota language during the roll call of the states on Tuesday. Four tribal citizens -- both Clinton and Sanders supporters -- served as delegates for South Dakota.

Tribal citizens from Oklahoma sported bolos in support of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this week. The bolos were created by Native artists from Oklahoma. Two of the three styles are shown here. Photos by Indianz.Com

Yet Frank LaMere, a member of the Winnebago Tribe, insists the party must do even more to include Indian Country. He said the Native American Council, which drew hundreds of participants to meetings on Monday and Wednesday at the convention center in the city's downtown -- should be treated as a "caucus" in order to elevate tribal issues to a higher level.

"We've earned our way into this hall," LaMere said in an interview at the Wells Fargo Center. He noted that Native people serve in the U.S. military at the highest rates per capita of any racial or any ethnic group and many have have sacrificed their lives.

"We've got to collectively assert our rightful place within the state parties" and within the national party, said LaMere, who was one of three Native citizens who served as delegates for Nebraska. "I think that's just the beginning."

The 2016 Democratic platform includes the most expansive language ever in terms of Indian issues. During her campaign, Clinton also has vowed to ensure tribal nations are at the table in the next presidential administration.

"My primary mission as president will be to create more opportunity and more good jobs with rising wages right here in the United States," Clinton said in her acceptance speech on Thursday night. "From my first day in office to my last, especially in places that for too long have been left out and left behind, from our inner cities to our small towns, from Indian Country to coal country, from communities ravaged by addiction, to regions hollowed out by plant closures."

Clinton is the first woman to be nominated as president by the Democratic party.

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