LAME DEER, Montana - As the old political saw goes, “Have a seat at the table or be part of the menu.”
Jason Small, Montana State Senator (Northern Cheyenne) and Chair of the State-Tribal Affairs Committee elaborated on that sentiment. “It is important for us as Natives to pick our own destiny. If we’re not in control, someone else is. State government controls the purse strings to so many programs and opportunity for Tribes and our members. That’s why I’m glad to see so many tribal members wanting to participate at the State level.”
Though Native Americans comprise approximately 6% of the total Montana population, the Indian vote is often considered a “swing” vote in closely contested elections. For years, especially the Democratic Party has invested considerable time, effort and money cultivating the Native vote through voter registration drives, get-out-the vote efforts and also cultivating Native candidates, now reflected by the fact that the majority of Natives elected to State office are Democrats.
There are, however, some exceptions such as Jason Small, a Republican who is also the State-wide President of the Boilermaker’s union. Small commented “Bi-partisan support is often essential to gain passage of legislation for tribal interests”, specifically noting the Medicare Expansion Act, which he introduced, but was successful due to overwhelming Democratic support, in large part due to a very active Native Caucus at the Montana Legislature, supported by many non-Indian legislators who have tribal constituents.
“For our numbers in the State, we have good representation at the Legislature,” Small said.
2020 Montana Native American Primary Winners: Senate District 16: Mike Fox, Gros Ventre; Senate District 21: Rae Peppers, Crow & Jason Small, Northern Cheyenne; House District: Marvin Weatherwax, Blackfeet; HD 16: Tyson Weatherwax; Blackfeet; HD 24 (Great Falls) Barbara Bessette, Chippewa; HD 31 Frank Smith, Assiniboine Sioux; HD 32: Jonathan WindyBoy, Chippewa Cree; HD 41: Rynalea Whiteman Pena, Northern Cheyenne; HD 42: Sharon Stewart Peregoy, Crow; HD 50: (Billings) Jade Bahr, Northern Cheyenne; HD 76 (Butte) Donovan Hawk, Crow Creek Sioux and State Auditor, Shane Morigeau, Confederated Salish and Kootenai.
This list may not be complete as the Republican Party does not have readily available information about Native American candidates.
Clara Caufield can be reached at email@example.com
Copyright permission Native Sun News Today
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