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Bryan Newland: A president who will empower tribal nations

Pete Buttigieg is the Best Candidate to Empower Tribal Nations

Democrats have a lot of good options in the field of candidates for President. I like them all, and would be excited to vote for any of them in November. But there is one candidate in particular who stands ahead of the pack to me - Mayor Pete.

I am proud to endorse Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Let me explain why.

As a Tribal Leader who was raised on the Rez in a rural area in the Midwest, I appreciate the work Mayor Pete has put into reaching out to Tribes and developing policy priorities that empower Tribal Nations to work within our own communities to make life better. From restoring tribal jurisdiction over our own lands, to restoring homelands, and protecting our sacred places and our environment, Mayor Pete's platform speaks to issues important to Tribal Nations and our citizens. I also know that Mayor Pete has worked directly with one of our fellow Anishnaabe Tribes – the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians – to build a positive government-to-government relationship in his own community in South Bend.

Beyond the particular issues important to Indian country, I also appreciate that Mayor Pete understands the generational challenges facing all Americans: climate change, threats to our democratic form of government, the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few rich people at the expense of working poor Americans, and the fact that health care is becoming a luxury item for a wealthy few.

Pete Buttigieg with leaders and citizens of the Catawba Nation during a historic visit to tribal headquarters in Rock Hill, South Carolina, on October 26, 2019. Photo by Carina Teoh / Pete for America

The Democratic candidates largely agree on the importance of these issues, and offer very similar ideas to meet these challenges. But, it takes more than making the right policy proposals to create change that lasts.

I had the honor of serving in President Obama's Administration (working with the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior), after working on his 2008 campaign and Presidential Transition. President Obama always stressed to his team that "process matters" - how you do something is often as important as what you're trying to do.

Bringing stakeholders together, trying to build a consensus, listening to people who didn't vote for you, and serving those who may never vote for you, is important to making changes that last. That's a lesson I try to apply in my job as a Tribal Leader.

We have a President right now who is only interested in being the President of 40% of Americans, and antagonizing the rest of us. Mayor Pete is the antidote to that poisonous approach. He understands that process matters, and bringing everyone to the table matters: from Tribal citizens to urban Moms, and even to Republicans who may be reluctant to vote for a young Democrat.

The next President is not going to solve every single problem facing every single person; and Indian country should never bank on the U.S. President leading the way to make life better in our communities - that's our job.

But, how the President approaches the job is as important as what he or she aims to do. President Obama understood that, and helped build a better nation-to-nation relationship between Tribes and the United States. It was his sincere desire to ensure that everyone had a seat at the table to create lasting change that inspired me as a young man over a decade ago. And it is that same trait that excites me about voting for Mayor Pete in Michigan’s upcoming primary election.

Note: Thumbnail photo of Pete Buttigieg by Gage Skidmore

Bryan Newland is the elected President of Bay Mills Indian Community (Ojibwe), which is located on the shores of Lake Superior in northern Michigan. He was elected to his position in November 2017. Prior to that, he served as the Chief Judge of the Bay Mills Indian Community Tribal Court. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees for the Michigan State University College of Law, where he occasionally teaches as an Adjunct Faculty Member.

From 2009 to 2012, Bryan served as an appointee of President Barack Obama at the Department of the Interior, where he was the Senior Policy Advisor to the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs. In that capacity, Bryan advised the Assistant Secretary on issues ranging from gaming and land policies to energy and treaty rights. He was instrumental in the Department of the Interior's efforts to acquire nearly 200,000 acres of land in trust for tribes and individual Indians. He also led the effort to reform the Bureau of Indian Affairs' regulations governing leasing on Indian lands, and worked to ensure passage of the landmark HEARTH Act of 2012.

In 2008, Newland served as the Michigan Native Vote Coordinator for Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign, and was a member of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team.

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