Analysis: Sen. Obama 'big' in Indian Country

"Barack Obama is big in Indian Country, even though he’s done everything wrong.

He hasn’t attended the annual National Congress of American Indians meet, or rolled out a comprehensive Native American agenda, or even addressed the rumors of his own Native heritage—but he has still, somehow, managed to capture the imagination of Indian Country, say Native American commentators and community activists.

Whether that wave of goodwill is enough to carry him to “Super Tuesday” primary victories in the states of Alaska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Arizona, remains to be seen.

“Obama represents a break from the old—something fresh and new,” says Paul DeMain, managing editor of the Northern Wisconsin-based newspaper News from Indian Country. “Native people are looking at him as someone who can empathize with other people of color.”

DeMain has a hunch that those coming out in support of Obama are the young and the highly educated. The younger generation is trying to define itself in new political terms, he explains. “When I looked at who’s on his list, I saw lots of family names I recognized,” he says. For example, the daughter of LaDonna Harris, an outspoken Comanche leader who donated to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s presidential campaign last year, is now involved with the Obama campaign, says DeMain.

Over in Nebraska, Kevin Abourezk, a reporter with the Lincoln Journal Star and a prominent Native affairs blogger, agrees. “Obama is appealing to younger voters across the ethnic spectrum. He’s just exciting, and he harkens back to people like John F. Kennedy.”

DeMain has been watching the polls on his newspaper’s website for the past few months, and has seen a recent spike in the number of people selecting Obama as their preferred Democratic Party candidate."

Get the Story:
Indian Country Could Back Obama on Super Tuesday (New American Media 1/24)

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