Native voters split support as Hillary Clinton claims Democratic win

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton celebrates in Brooklyn, New York, after claiming her party's nomination in June 7, 2016. Photo from Facebook

Hillary Clinton claimed the Democratic nomination for president on Tuesday as Native voters in prominent states underscored a split that is keeping rival Bernie Sanders in the race.

Native voters in New Mexico and South Dakota propelled Clinton to a string of victories that included New Jersey and California, where a big pot of delegates was up for grabs. The former U.S. Senator and former Secretary of State underscored the historic nature of her campaign as she set the stage for the November general election.

"Yes, there are still ceilings to break -- for women and men, for all Americans," Clinton said in Brooklyn, New York, where her campaign is headquartered. "But don’t let anyone tell you that great things can’t happen in America. Barriers can come down. Justice and equality can win."

Yet Sanders vowed to stay in the race even as Clinton won enough delegates to clinch the nomination at the Democratic National Convention next month in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Senator from Vermont managed to win Montana and North Dakota, two states with significant Native populations.

"The struggle continues," Sanders said in Santa Monica, California, after losing the state, with 475 delegates at stake, to Clinton.

The struggle was particularly evident in South Dakota, where a slew of elected tribal leaders endorsed Clinton. But voters in nearly every county with a majority Native population instead went with Sanders, according to the results.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on the campaign trail in California. Photo from Facebook

In Oglala Lakota County, home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Sanders won 57.5 percent of the vote. Native Americans represent 92.2 percent of the population there, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and President John Yellowbird Steele had endorsed Sanders, one of the few holdouts among his peers.

In Dewey County, home to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Sanders took 65.4 percent of the vote. Native Americans are 72.8 percent of the population there.

The wins for Sanders were similar in neighboring Ziebach County and Dewey County, where the two tribes' reservations are also located, and in nearly every other majority Native county across the state. Leaders from those tribes were supporting Clinton.

The only exception was Buffalo County, home to the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, where Clinton won with 60.8 percent of the vote. Native Americans represent 78.7 percent of the population there. Chairman Brandon Sazue had endorsed Clinton.

Still, Clinton managed to win the state despite Indian Country's support for Sanders. But the outcome was close -- fewer than 1,000 votes separated the pair, according to the Secretary of State, indicating that a stronger Native turnout could have tipped the race. Native Americans represent nearly 9 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"Both campaigns ran great races in South Dakota and engaged thousands of people in the democratic process through their campaigns in the state," Suzanne Jones Pranger, the executive director of the South Dakota Democratic Party, said in a statement after the results came in.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters in Redding, California, on June 3, 2016. Photo from Facebook

The results painted a different story in New Mexico, where Native Americans make up 10.4 percent of the population, according to the Census Bureau. All of the counties with significant Native populations overwhelmingly went for Clinton.

In McKinley County, Clinton won with 59.2 percent of the vote, according to the Secretary of State. Native Americans -- mostly members of the Navajo Nation -- represent 76.8 percent of the population there.

Clinton's Navajo support stretched into San Juan County, where she won 52.5 percent of the vote. But Pueblo citizens supported her too -- she took home 60.2 percent in Rio Arriba County, 51.5 percent in Cibola County and 51.7 percent in Sandoval County. Together, those counties represent the majority of the Pueblo reservations in the state.

Sanders managed to win Bernalillo County, the state's most populous and home to a significant Pueblo and urban Indian population. Although Clinton won the state overall, the close results in the county -- only about 1,300 votes separated the pair -- indicate that Native voters did play a role.

According to The New York Times, Clinton has secured 2,755 pledged and unpledged delegates. The Democratic nominee needs 2,383 delegates to win the party's title.

Republican candidate Donald Trump was well on his way to claiming his party's nomination after all of his rivals dropped out in May. The Republican National Convention takes place next month in Cleveland, Ohio.

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