Mark Trahant: Democrats pass on Prez on the Rez

"I will be moderating a forum for Democratic Party candidates called "Prez On The Rez" on the Morongo Reservation in California. The idea is to engage candidates and tribal leaders in a conversation about issues important to Indian Country. There is a lot to talk about, ranging from sovereignty to funding for health care.

Kalyn Free is organizing the event. It grew out of her effort to elect more Native Americans to public offices with fundraising and other logistical support through an organization called "INDN list."

"Indian Country has been ignored in some ways and curried in other ways," said Free, who is a Choctaw tribal member from Oklahoma. The candidates ask for votes or for money from the wealthy tribes, but haven't been engaged in the same way as they are with other constituent groups.

But unlike the YouTube debate or numerous other joint events on the campaign schedule, only a few of the candidates are participating in Prez On The Rez: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel.

The top-tier candidates passed. Some raised objections to the location or being present at a tribal resort and casino. Organizers offered to move the event -- basically presenting an accommodation to any barrier. No dice.

About 150 tribal leaders -- including many from Washington -- will be at the event anyway, even if they remain disappointed that the candidates and their issues won't be on the nation's agenda for those few minutes of exposure."

Get the Story:
Demographic shift about race and age (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer 8/12)

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