Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye endorses Hillary Clinton


Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye met in Phoenix, Arizona, on March 21, 2016. Photo courtesy Navajo Nation OPVP

It's official -- all of the top leaders of the two largest tribes in the United States support Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.

President Russell Begaye of the Navajo Nation announced his endorsement on Friday. In a message to the Dine people, he said the former Secretary of State and former U.S. Senator is the only major party candidate who will support tribal sovereignty.

"I believe Hillary Clinton, as President of the United States, will be a strong partner to work with on a government-to-government level," Begaye said in the message. "In this campaign, she has committed to serving tribal nations through strengthening public safety, combating drugs and alcohol, advocating for access to high quality education, improving Indian health care, and fighting for our Native American veterans."

"As a Senator, she continued this effort by cosponsoring legislation to improve Indian health care and tribal colleges," Begaye added. "I trust she will respect our treaty and I look forward to working with her administration on a government-to-government basis."

In contrast, Begaye said Republican nominee Donald Trump will "set harmful precedents for federal Indian policy." He said the real estate mogul "falsely accused Indian gaming of being involved in organized crime and drugs."

"He has also supported using the power of the federal government to deny tribal sovereignty," Begaye said. "I have serious concerns about whether Mr. Trump would honor our inherent tribal sovereignty and respect our treaty with the United States."

"Finally, I cannot stand by any candidate who denigrates and belittles women as Mr. Trump’s actions have shown," the president said.

Begaye joins Vice President Jonathan Nez in backing the Democratic nominee. Nez was one of the first tribal leaders to support Clinton and he serves on the Hillary for America Arizona Leadership Council.

Begaye also joins Principal Chief Bill John Baker of the Cherokee Nation in endorsing Clinton. Both Baker and Nez attended the Democratic National Convention in July.

"I truly believe that Hillary Clinton gets the idea of sovereignty for tribal nations," Baker said at the convention, where the tribe sponsored a tent for Oklahoma's delegation.

Together, the Navajo Nation and the Cherokee Nation represent the two largest tribes in terms of enrolled members.

President Begaye's full message follows:
Yá’át’ééh Shidine’é,

As President of the great Navajo Nation, I take our inter-governmental affairs and federal relationship extremely seriously. Our sovereign nation must work cooperatively with other states, tribal nations and other foreign governments, so that we can protect and create the best opportunities for our citizens. Fortunately, we as the Navajo Nation have had many friends and champions from both the Democratic and Republican parties. In my view, our tribal issues do not fit nicely into one political party. Each of the two major parties offer some policies and proposals that can benefit the Navajo people and it is important to work with both of these groups to advance our nation.

As President, I always have, and always will put the Diné people first – and that includes before any political party. As such, I have not typically endorsed a particular party or candidate for election. However this U.S. Presidential election is of tremendous magnitude with much at stake for the Navajo people. The stark difference between the two major candidates necessitates that I speak out as leader of the Navajo Nation.

With this in mind, I do not feel Donald Trump will respect our tribal sovereignty and will set harmful precedents for federal Indian policy. Mr. Trump has funded advertising campaigns that falsely accused Indian gaming of being involved in organized crime and drugs. He has also supported using the power of the federal government to deny tribal sovereignty. I have serious concerns about whether Mr. Trump would honor our inherent tribal sovereignty and respect our treaty with the United States. Finally, I cannot stand by any candidate who denigrates and belittles women as Mr. Trump’s actions have shown.

I believe Hillary Clinton, as President of the United States, will be a strong partner to work with on a government-to-government level. In this campaign, she has committed to serving tribal nations through strengthening public safety, combating drugs and alcohol, advocating for access to high quality education, improving Indian health care, and fighting for our Native American veterans. As a Senator, she continued this effort by cosponsoring legislation to improve Indian health care and tribal colleges. I trust she will respect our treaty and I look forward to working with her administration on a government-to-government basis.

I wholeheartedly endorse Hillary Clinton for the office of President of the United States. I encourage the electorate of the great Navajo Nation to review both candidates’ records and join me in this support. I also encourage other Indian Nations to support her as well.

I look forward to the outcome of this important election. And I also look forward to a day when we have a member of the Navajo Nation on the U.S. Presidential ballot.

Sincerely,

Russell Begaye
Navajo Nation President

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