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Rob CapricciosoBack to OpinionRob Capriccioso

American Indians make voices heard this election cycle

American Indians – long a forgotten and ignored constituency in U.S. politics – are increasingly getting themselves involved in the system, saying the stakes are too high this election season to sit on the sidelines waiting to be courted.

Denise Juneau, Montana State Superintendent of Public Instruction addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. Photo: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The activism is everywhere, from large political donations to the presidential candidates to participation in the major American political parties, to grassroots advocacy for Native voter rights and the perennial push to get more politicos from both sides of the aisle ready to take action on tribal and Indian issues once elected.

Nowhere was the was involvement clearer than at this year’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., where a record 161 Native delegates cast their votes in support of President Barack Obama’s nomination. Throughout the three-day convention, many Indians canvassed the hall, making sure politicians were aware of their presence and their need for enhanced representation in Washington. They met with important Democratic political players, including U.S. Sen. James Inouye, D-Hawaii, Jill Biden, and top members of the Obama administration. Denise Juneau, a citizen of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes, delivered an impassioned speech on the convention floor, focused on Indian education.

“I found it so empowering to see Native faces and signs in the crowd, tribal issues being presented and discussed, and tribes finally being addressed as governments,” said Theresa Sheldon, a Native get-out-the vote organizer and Tulalip tribal citizen from Washington state. A big push from Indians at the convention focused on forming a Native American Caucus that would be recognized in the greater structure of the organization, and thus have more sway in focusing the party’s attention on Indian issues. Indians are also advising the Republican Party and Mitt Romney’s campaign on tribal sovereignty, self-determination, and economic development.

In 2012, tribal citizens are making their presence known far beyond issue advocacy and get-out-the vote activities. They’re also contributing to the major federal and state candidates and parties in record numbers. Recent data indicates that tribes have donated at least $2.5 million to Obama’s reelection campaign through the end of July, and about $750,000 to Romney. Four tribes donated a total of $400,000 to the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and many more are contributing to state and local elections.

Gyasi Ross, a lawyer with the Crowell law firm and an organizer with the Obama campaign in 2008, said that Native Americans have a major reason to be engaged in American politics, since they are the citizens of sovereign nations with strong political interests, and, like it or not, they have a built-in relationship with the American government.

“On average, Native people are aware of the political process at a higher [rate] than any other ethnic group in the nation, with the exception of perhaps Jews,” said Ross, a citizen of the Blackfeet Nation. “The reason?  Similar to Jews in relationship to Israel, Native people understand that, as a result of our unique political relationship with the United States government, many of our basic needs are dependent upon the federal-tribal relationship.”

John Tahsuda, a lobbyist with the Navigators Global and an adviser to the Romney campaign on Indian issues, noted that Indians have a long history of some participation in the American political system, but he doubts that it ever truly impacted a presidential election until 2008, when Obama capitalized on Indian political support to maintain a momentum in the primary race against Hillary Clinton and later against John McCain. He believes that Indian turnout helped the president greatly in some key states—something that many candidates are depending on in some states this year—Montana, the Dakotas, Arizona and New Mexico among them. He’d like Indians to put Romney over the edge this time around.

On the flip side, Ross cautioned that Native political awareness does not always equal involvement, since many Indians choose not to participate, like many poor and historically overlooked groups, because of a feeling that their votes are not as meaningful as a wealthy or white person’s vote. Some Indians are taking on activist roles in that area, such as several tribal citizens from Montana, who are currently suing the state because they say not enough has been done this year to open satellite offices for early voting on some reservations. The National Congress of American Indians and some tribes are also working to get out the vote, saying that more votes translate to more clout on Capitol Hill.

Some Indians may also be disappointed that politicos don’t always seem to pay enough attention back in return. Obama, for instance, visited the Crow tribe to campaign in 2008, but this year has not travelled to any Indian reservations—a fact that disappoints many Native Americans. And many economic challenges remain on many poverty-stricken reservations, despite some movement by the Obama administration to make things better.

“I think it remains to be seen whether participation will reach the levels it reached in 2008,” said Tahsuda, a citizen of the Kiowa Tribe.  “Candidate Obama really reached out and created voter excitement among Native Americans that year.  I have a feeling that same level of enthusiasm is not being reached this year, but we won’t know until Election Day.”

Added Ross: “President Obama has shown an unprecedented interest and commitment to tribes— he’s been the best president, in his first four years, that Native people have ever seen. Yet, Native people have discovered that even Obama’s interest and commitment is no panacea for the poverty and many social ills within our community.  There is no quick fix.”

Another concern that comes with the increased Indian attention to American politics is whether Indians are paying enough attention to strengthening their own systems of government back home on the reservations. Tribes are sovereign governments, after all, and they need strong leaders and policies in place to be able to strengthen their communities and to foster relationships beyond the tribes with local, state and federal governments.

Tahsuda said that a lot of Native Americans still do not take the interest they should in their own political processes.  “Traditionally, we often express disapproval by not participating, which translates into low voter turnout,” he said.

Ross, meanwhile, doesn’t think that Indian participation in state and federal elections takes away from tribal elections.  “Tribal elections have an energy all their own—it’s 100 percent an indigenous phenomenon that has a small-town, ‘Americana’ vibrancy mixed with Native aggression and tribalism,” he said. “It’s fun.  On the other hand, our increasing participation in mainstream elections is also a signal of how globalism has affected our own insular Native communities—we understand that we’re not insulated anymore and have no choice but to try to best affect those outside elections because those outside elections affect us powerfully.”

Rob Capriccioso is the Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief for Indian Country Today Media Network. He is a citizen of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians.


  • Mike

    Mike lagano here have some research i am doing and would like your opinion especially in respect to treaties.

    of Revolution (of 2014) of “We People of the United States of America”

    the people of these United States of America (Now known as “We or Our or Us or
    the People of the United States” for the duration of this document), under the right,
    of God and Mankind and 230 years of History, supported by documents as defined
    hereon, by law through the Constitution of the United States of America” and by
    principle the “The Unanimous Declaration
    of the Thirteen United States of America (Now known as the “Declaration
    of Independence”, of 1776, for the duration of this document) , as supported by
    Our country’s Founding Fathers under the authority of the “Continental Congress
    of the United States of America”. We demand separation of the Bureaucrats and
    all of its enemies of this Government and all others who refuse to follow the
    rules of governing as set forth by the Constitutional Republic of the United
    States Constitution now and forever and this paper will articulate the
    motivation for the above resolution.

    It is on this day, October 01, 2013, that “We the People
    of these United States of America” express our Grievances, Enemies, Terms of Agreement,
    Officers and Ranks, Rules of Conduct and Engagement, Treaties and Policies and
    Resolve. That we come forth with open hands to ensure a peaceful outcome. That
    no hostility need be exerted in the resolve of our differences and that
    Government just needs to follow the rules of governing and laws as stated in
    the above documents. And that “We the People” have the right to revolt and
    demand that Government follow the rules and law of which they are governed, to
    follow all rules of law sat by their predecessors, be held accountable to
    promises they make, and that their decision be made for the fairness of all the
    people, not just the majority or the minority or special interest. That there
    is, “No cause in any Government is greater than that of the people’s will.”

    Government can no longer act responsibly, “We the People” are obligated to
    repossess the power of which we entrusted to them and salvage and correct their
    course of action and afterwards return to our lawful Constitutional Rule. That
    all Americans be given the rights as agreed to by the documents described
    above, that life is given to us by God not government, belief in their own
    specific endow creator, human rights, tranquility, and the pursuit of happiness. That there be no distinguishing interpretation
    of a Citizen other than that as an American, that no, color, race, creed, sex,
    nation origin, legal personal conduct or any other hyphenated- American be
    recognized (with except for that of a description of a specific person or
    possibly “Native-American”).


    The Assassination (Murder and unnecessary
    killing) of Osama Bin Laden (as reported by Barrack Obama and who stated he is
    solely responsible for and order the killing of Osama Bin Laden). In spite of
    previously signed Executive Order by President Ronald Regan prohibiting
    Government Sanctioned Assassinations.

    Benghazi Scandal (Leaving American
    Embassy in Libya and Personnel at Risk and refusing to send help when requested
    resulting in death. This is viewed as criminal.) Violates All Rules and Laws
    that are dear to Americans.

    NSA Scandal (Evasion of Privacy of the
    Citizen of the United States of America) Violates Fourth Amendment Rules.

    IRS Political Targeting Scandal (Deceitful and Deceptive Practices and Evasion
    of Privacy of Organizations of the United States of America) Violates Fourth,
    Fifth, and Sixth Amendment Rules.

    DOJ Gun Running Scandal (Fast and Furious
    resulting in the death of a US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and thousands of
    Mexicans) Violates Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment Rules.

    Affordable Care Act (specifically: Involuntary Servitude, Serfdom and Debt Bondage Slavery and Exception
    to the law for Members of Congress, Unions, Special Interest Groups) Violates
    Ninth, Tenth and Thirteenth Amendment Rules. When does the average US Citizen
    get to decide that he or she is exempt from a law?

    The Government’s Refusal to follow
    Immigration Laws, Gun Control Laws, the overall selection of Laws it chooses to
    Enforce and Adhere, and the Laws it chooses to ignore. When does the average US
    Citizen get to decide what law he or she wishes to not follow without penalty?

    The overall poor performance of Presidents
    and Congress for the past 80 years. They have slowly and continuingly stripped the
    Citizens of this country of their liberties and freedoms for the purpose of
    helping foreign countries and citizens at risk to our own people. The past 15
    years Congress has failed to present a budget as stated by the Constitution.
    They have most recently shut down the government putting the burden of inconvenience
    on the people via shut of pleasurable items and services that are a sacred
    promise (National Parks, Veterans Services, Food and Drug Administration, and
    many other government services that our citizens rely on) but they are continuing
    to send “Billions of Dollars” overseas to other government in order to help the
    citizens of those countries and their prosperity of which is not the
    responsibility of the Citizens of the United States.

    Congress refusal to get along, to negotiate,
    to come together not to argue over differences but rather reach out to one in
    another and resolve problems that they can agree on. To be Statesmen of honor
    and integrity not conmen and thieves. To focus on the direction of the country by
    the will of the people not their own personal whims.

    Continuing attacks to destroy the United
    States Constitution and force this country into a Socialist Society.

    That the voting laws in this country be
    defined. Since the United States is the symbol of freedom and voting throughout
    the world it is incumbent that each voting cycle be sacred not a circus as it
    has been for the past 20 years.

    That the United States Government in
    the name of “We the People” has made treaties with other Nations not keeping with
    American Values, for the purpose of and pressure of Bribery and of false or no
    clear meaning and or never intended to enforce.

    That Government (World, State, County,
    Municipality, Town, Incorporated) has over taxed “We the People”, to excess (to
    the point of limiting a person right to liberty and pursuit of happiness). That
    honest men and woman can no longer even chose an occupation or business without
    either tax or license or government intervention. That a customer can no longer
    chose to buy goods or services or sell property without government’s approval
    or intervention. That one business owner’s competitor is no longer another
    business but rather a foreign entity.

    of the People;

    President of the Government Barrack
    Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton,
    IRS Employee Luis Learner, and all others for criminal acts; Failure to protect
    Citizens of the United States, to follow rules, laws and activity unbecoming of
    an Appointed or Employee of a Government Representative of the United States of
    America while representing the People of the United States of America as stated
    above under the Grievances Section of this document.

    The Congress of the Government for its
    inability to govern and activity unbecoming of a Congressional Representative
    of the United States of America as stated above under the Grievances Section of
    this document.

    The Supreme Court and all Federal
    Courts of the United States Government for their inability to uphold the
    constitution of the United States of America and the laws of the land and the
    procedure of which they operate under: Adjudications shall be made based on the
    law not from the bench based on personal opinion.

    Government refers to United States
    Federal Government and its Officials but also includes any government (World,
    State, County, Municipality, Town, Incorporated), official, person of any,
    individual person or groups of person of any of the above that resist the will
    of “We the People of the United States”.

    of Agreement:

    That the Government prepares to meet
    with the Peoples President and deliver and read this document to a joint
    session of the President of the Government, Congress and Supreme Court Members in
    order to avert hostilities by November 11 of 2013.

    That our President has permission to
    meet with the governments Vice President, Speaker of House, the Majority Leader
    of the Senate, and the Secretary of the Department of State at later dates to
    discuss all grievances and resolution.

    That“We the People” will give the
    Government until January 15 of 2014 to pass all resolutions that we have
    presented and or negated prior to the start of hostilities.

    To be amended as required.

    and Ranks:

    “We the People” are all the Citizens of
    the United States of America and it’s named Allies that support our cause. That
    our National Spokesman be XXXX XXCXXX and any other named negotiators that he
    rightful name. That he has no right to make peace without the 50
    representatives of each of the 50 States of the United States of America
    present and resolute. That he be named President of our cause and he is our
    chosen speaker and is to only negotiate our will and away forward in order to
    keep an open lines of communications with the opposing and oppressing force. The Militia of the
    People of the United States will be made up of all citizens of the United
    States of America. The leaders of the People will only recognize the members of
    the cause when they are brought forward by Government forces and at the same
    time “We the People” will take responsibility for their acts.

    of Conduct and Engagement:

    The rules of conduct will be agreed
    that no party will act against the people with purpose to intentionally harm,
    or to enslave, or hold hostage, or to confiscate property or conscript goods or
    persons without reasonable and immediate reimbursement, and to follow all
    treaties and signed agreements.

    That no Person, Persons, Company or
    Corporation be held to any infringement of any law for their mere support of
    monetary value or goods.

    That any breach of this agreement or
    any attached agreements will be dealt with immediately, and that this document
    and its attached agreements is the only rule of the negations between our
    Officers and Ranks and Allies, and the Governments Appointed Representatives.

    The President of the People of the
    United States be treated with the utmost respect and protection equal to the
    President of the Government. That any infringement of this rule will result in
    the immediate all-out war and elimination of all Government forces. That he and
    his offices, named representatives, communications, and all other functions
    relating to the business of the People of the United States be ruled similar to
    the rules of protection of diplomatic immunity.

    That all recognized militia of the
    People of the United States be treated according under the standardized rules
    of war under the Geneva Convention, that they follow the stand of conduct and
    be treated with the same conduct as any US Military Forces, and any other
    treaties agreed upon.

    That both forces agree to only use
    conventional weapons and that no party involve US Military Force’s weapons, or

    That both forces agree to only use
    allied forces for the purpose of support via monetary value and goods.

    All Militia under the control of “We
    the People” will organize and be held accountable under this document and all
    of its treaties, they will act and plan demonstrations, attacks, campaigns, and
    movements independently under the five levels of threat: the first threat level
    being Demonstrations of Logistical Lines (Highways, Main City Streets, Company
    Distribution Centers, etc). This is to include public disobedience. Protest
    without permits from marches to barbeques in the middle of the streets. Flood
    lines of Communications to all Government Offices. The last and Fifth level of
    threat will be Peace.

    Militia will only match the Governments
    resistant’s to that of its resolve.

    All activity in the name of “We the
    People” will be signified by the concealed or open display of the upside down
    American Flag.

    Any Activity that is conducted in the
    name of “We the People” that is unauthorized or that is contrary to this
    document or its treaties will be denounced immediately by its leaders and
    condemned and if possible and in the control of “We the People” will include a publicly
    charge or trial.

    To be amended as required.

    and Policies:

    First; That if hostilities cannot be
    overt that the Government accept this document in its entirety with no
    deviation. That any treaty or rule or agreement that is not listed hereon will
    be attached to and signed by the Peoples President and by Vice President of the
    Government, the Speaker of the House, and the Secretary of the Department of

    Second; That the Government, except the
    People’s Revolutionary Notes, that every Revolutionary dollar be worth Two
    United States Government Dollars.

    Notes will be used as Exchange for Payment of any Government Tax or Government
    Regulated Item, and as Food Stamps. (This is to include Licensing Fees, Tolls,
    Food Stamps, Insurance Fees, Legal Fees, Tax burdens or any other Government

    To be amended as required.


    First; That all named enemies
    (President of the Government Barrack Obama, Eric Holder, Luis Learner, Hilary
    Clinton) be jailed and tried for crimes committed against the people and deaths
    relating to crimes(if applicable). These individual will also be charged with
    activity unbecoming of an Appointed or Employee of the Government of the United
    States of America while representing the People of the United States of America
    and if found guilty of this charge their punishment will be to ban the guilty from
    all US Government Service and from ever running from any elected office and a
    fine of not less than 250,000 dollars. There will be no amnesty or pardon for
    any of the named above for any crime committed.

    Second; That both Barrack Obama and
    Eric Holder be held for extradition to other International Courts. Barrack
    Obama for the murder of Osama Bin Laden and Eric Holder for the thousands of
    Mexican Citizens killed in the fast and Furious Gun Running Scandal and that
    these courts have up to one year to file.

    Third: That the Congress passes a unanimous
    bill that will prevent any future Government interruptions will not inconvenience
    the People of the United States in any way. That is to include SSN Medicare, Medicaid,
    Veterans, Schools, National Parks, US Military, Etc. That all future cuts in
    spending will start with foreign funds first and then Agency funds and building
    and furlough of people.

    Fourth: That the Congress passes a
    unanimous bill that will provide funds that take care of all Wounded Veterans
    for life and that all Veterans will get not veterans preferences for government
    jobs but first selection.

    Fifth: That the Congress passes a
    unanimous bill that it will always have a budget without fail (no more than 2
    years max).

    Sixth: That the Congress passes a
    unanimous bill that will protect the constitution of the United States that
    prior to any bill coming to the floor that research must be conducted as to
    whether that bill was submitted once before, why the bill did not pass, why it
    now should pass, and what are the concerns of it being unconstitutional via
    research of the Constitution and the Federalist Papers.

    Seventh: That the Congress passes a
    unanimous bill that will create and incorporate a fourth branch to government.
    This branch will be the Inspector General of the United States and have
    policing powers. Its duties will be to investigate all branches of government
    via signed complaints from any person or groups of persons that must be
    reported to that of the satisfaction of the complaint. It will be the whistle
    blowers outlet. It will replace oversight committees and individual agency
    Inspector General Offices. Each level of government and every agency will have
    a liaison. This branch of government will be equal to the Executive, the
    Legislative, and the Judicial. It will get its authority to investigate and
    obtain warrants from the federal district courts and they will be insulated from
    corruption of politics.

    Eighth: Affordable Care Act will revert
    back to its original state without any exceptions to any rule thereof and then
    reviewed by Congress and if any part is found to unconstitutional on any persons
    or groups of persons the bill will be repealed and made new. That congress
    insist that the Affordable Care Act revenue be only used for American Citizens
    Health Care only and that the revenue cannot be used for any other programs
    other than American Health Care.

    Ninth: All current Immigration Laws
    will be implemented immediately without any exception. All non US Citizens will
    report to local law enforcement and file their whereabouts and current activity
    for adjudication of their status if illegal or unverified they will be given 60
    days to leave the country from January 15 of 2014.

    Tenth: All borders will be closed with
    the exception to import and export activities for a period of five years.
    Congress will unanimous pass a bill that states if products can be made or
    produced in the United States then cannot be imported.

    Eleventh: That congress passes a
    unanimous bill that the first duty of every Citizen of the United States is to
    vote. That they may vote for, against or abstain but none the less every
    Citizen must cast a ballot at least once in a two year period in order to
    receive any federal entitlements. That congress defines the question of what
    are a Natural Citizen, Native Citizen, and a Naturalized Citizen. Finally that
    Congress defines campaign laws by solidifying candidates’ platforms, mudsling,
    morals, recall rules, and person conduct that is open to scrutiny during a

    Twelfth: That all treaties be suspended
    until “We the People” and the Nation in Question” have met to comprehend and
    deliberate its reasoning and purpose and to revise and renegotiate to that of
    American values and for the purpose of a just case for all and endorsement.

    To be amended as required


    To all who have received or read this
    document, it is now time for you to decide what type of country you wish to
    live in and answer for yourselves three questions.

    Do you
    wish to live in a country where there are established rules of governing and
    laws for all the people or no rules of governing and only laws for the chosen

    Do you
    wish to live in a country where there is freedom, choice, and free speech or as
    slaves to a government and tax payers for world affairs and quiet comical
    remarks of support for our constitution and bill of rights?

    “We the People” of the “United States of America” a “Constitutional Republic”
    as stated by the US Constitution, the rules of governing or are we a
    represented democracy of which we the people have no say after we elect our officials
    with no right to challenge their authority, no right to impeach or correct
    their wrong doing, no right to question their irresponsible spending, and just
    be slaves of the tax burden set upon us?

    That the recipients of this document
    must respond to this document by their undisputable approval or by their avowed
    changes comments and action, or their public deniability and condemnation of
    the four corners of the document. Let it be said, that no man or woman have a right not to choose, that each
    must decide here and now to approve, disapprove or speak their peace now and

    That the agreed persons state “We the
    People” are the “Constitutional Republic of the United States of America” and are
    free people and whole heartedly in support of the Founding Fathers and the documents
    they have written and that we have approved for over 230 years. That we are not
    slaves to an overbearing government and world affairs. That we agree that we
    are rebellious and in good company of other men such as Paul the Apostle,
    Patrick Henry, Our founding Fathers (Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Paul Revere,
    Samuel Adams, John Adams, George Washington, Ruben James, John Hancock and so
    many others who have fought and died) who have given the lives in the name of
    the freedoms we possess and have come a custom too.

    Finally that the President of “We the People” be given
    the right to chastise the current Bureaucrats (Enemies as describe above) for
    their deplorable actions for these past 80 years and that the resolutions
    provided here on be debated as written. And if denied let this be the first
    shot of the Revolution of 2014 with the understanding that “We the People” will
    retaliate with that force of the same but 100 times the magnitude.