Advertise:   712.224.5420

Kerry White House will 'respect' sovereignty

Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry pledged to support tribal sovereignty and appoint Native Americans to top positions if elected this November.

Kerry, the senator from Massachusetts, received a spirited welcome at the nation's largest gathering of minority journalists in Washington, D.C., yesterday. At times, the session resembled a campaign rally, with attendees cheering loudly for the man who is facing incumbent President George W. Bush in "one of the most important elections of our lifetime."

"Everything is at stake," Kerry told the UNITY 2004 convention. "Jobs, health care, children, America's role in the world, the character of our country."

Some of the biggest applause came when Kerry mentioned his views on American Indians and Alaska Natives. "As president, I will also restore respect for tribal sovereignty throughout the executive branch, and I will reopen the doors of the White House itself to the first Americans," he said.

"We understand the struggles of our Native American brothers and sisters and, in addition to the health-care crisis facing tribes, we also know that poverty is rising in America. And nowhere is it worse than on our reservations," he added. "To ensure that your voice is heard on these and other vital issues, I will appoint Native Americans to key positions in the White House and throughout my administration."

After the speech, Kerry took questions from a panel representing the four organizations that make up UNITY: the Native American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists and the Asian American Association of Journalists.

Lori Edmo-Suppah, the editor of the Sho-Ban News on the Shoshone-Bannock Reservation in Idaho, spoke on behalf of NAJA and asked whether Kerry supported tribes receiving homeland security funds directly. Currently, tribes have to go through states or counties to seek a share of billions in anti-terrorism and preparedness funds.

"I think some of the funds need to go directly to tribes," he said. "I think there are law enforcement, jurisdictional difficulties right now in the dealings with many of the tribal jurisdictions, and we need to work those through, particularly in the Southwest. I'm prepared to do that."

Kerry stopped short of saying tribes should be able to receive funds exclusive of other jurisdictions. In some cases, tribes should "coordinate" with local and state governments to protect America's homelands, he said.

"What we have to do, fundamentally, is a better job of coordinating, and that hasn't been taking place," he told UNITY. "So you've actually had resistance to mutual interest in border issues and others."

During a second round of questions, Suppah asked what he would do to ensure Native students are included in the reforms of the No Child Left Behind Act. Kerry supported the law, which calls for greater accountability, standardized testing and more parental choice and involvement in public schools.

Kerry said he would roll back the tax cut for the wealthiest Americans dedicate more funding to education. "We are going to liberate our schools," he said.

Kerry's speech ended with a standing ovation from some of the conference attendees. The positive tone will be compared and contrasted with this morning's appearance by Bush, who will also take questions from journalists after his remarks. C-SPAN ( will carry the speech starting around 9:30 a.m.

Sen. Kerry Remarks:
Transcript | Video

Relevant Links:
UNITY 2004 -
Native American Journalists Association - Sen. John Kerry -