"The Republican Party, at the local and national level - aided by conservative philosophy - should be doing more to develop solutions for the issues affecting Native Americans. That the GOP is not doing this is surprising considering the party’s history. John McCain once quoted the late Mo Udall as saying: “Don’t forget the Indians.” To McCain’s credit, he didn’t (or, he tried not to in this last campaign). The GOP however seems to have forgotten their historically good track record in addressing and dealing with Indian relations.
President Grant tried to adopt a more humane Indian policy (although it was only a slight improvement). Barry Goldwater was always known for his interest in the welfare of our native tribes. His autobiography, Goldwater, contains numerous passages which reveal his heartfelt attachment and deep concern for the well-being of Native Americans. More recently, Ronald Reagan became the first President to appoint a Native American to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Reagan actually did more for the Native American community - when you really look at it - than anyone has ever given him credit for. As governor, he signed a resolution calling for Native American Day in California. And, of course, people remember Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who did, in fact, join Newt Gingrich after the GOP takeover of the House.
For the most part though, instead of honoring this legacy, the GOP has for the most part ceded their role in Indian affairs over the last few decades to the hopelessly misguided “liberal” policies of whites on the left. This in turn led to the agitation among certain tribes in the 1960s that is only now partially receding. But there are promising signs this is changing. In South Dakota, John Thune defeated Sen. Daschle in the 2004 election largely thanks to an increase in support on the reservations (admittedly it wasn’t a great deal, but it was a start). There’s much about this in Jon Lauck’s work Daschle Vs. Thune: Anatomy of a High Plains Senate Race. Also, GOP Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole is the only Indian American in Congress right now.
If you go into the reddest of Red states, you’ll find that the most stalwart conservative champions: Senators Thune, Brownback, Coburn, and the like, are immensely proud of securing Indian Health Service funding (whether or not that’s the best thing for the tribes is another issue) and doing anything they can to honor the tribes of whichever state they represent. Take a look at their webpages, and count their press releases, and you’ll find them. Rep. Cole’s website prominently trumpets the work he does for his Native American constituents."
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GOP’s Unsung Achievements for Native Americans
(The New Majority 9/15)