Shortly before Bernie Sanders came to the podium to packed arenas across America during his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Simon and Garfunkel song “America” blared over loudspeakers. The “I’ve come to look for America” lyric in the song created fervor of a new possibility in America. The song became the campaign’s anthem. Sanders came to search for America.
Along his search for America, the candidate noticed Native America or Indian Country.
During his journey across America, Senator Sanders held two dozen meetings with American Indian tribal leaders from over 90 different tribes in 20 states.
During his speeches, Sanders mentioned Indian Country. He mentioned the lack of equity American Indians face in 2016 in the areas of education, housing, health and economic development.
This attention paid to Indian Country by a presidential candidate was unprecedented in American history.
One would have to go back to the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 to come close.
Kennedy biographer, Jules Witcover, writes in “85 Days: the Last Campaign of Robert Kennedy”:
“There were times when Kennedy’s emotions drove him to actions that offered no political reward at all. His obsession with the plight of American Indians is the best example; the Indian vote was next to nothing, and there wasn’t even much sympathy or awareness among the general electorate that there was an Indian problem. Yet Kennedy missed no opportunity to address himself to that concern, to the point where it became a laughing matter…”
Kennedy visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, in April 1968. People alive then still talk about his visit with fondness and gratitude.
This past week, Bernie Sander’s wife, Jane Sanders, discussed with “Rolling Stones” magazine the Sanders campaign’s involvement with Indian Country:
“My daughter told me about Oak Flat, and then we had a meeting in Arizona — a rally— and a 14-year-old girl stood up and talked about the sacred site. I went to Flagstaff around the same time, and met with the Navajo Nation, met with the Apache-Stronghold, and came back and talked to Bernie about all this and said, ‘We have to do something, we have to do something.’ And he said, ‘OK.’
And since then, we met [with Native Americans] every single time we could. We have the strongest Native American platform.
It is something that Deborah [Parker, a former vice chairman of the Tulalip Tribes in Washington State, named to the platform committee by the Sanders campaign] fought for beforehand, and could get nowhere. At the main [Democratic Party platform] meeting she said, ‘They want me to water it down.’ We said, ‘No. You don’t start at a compromise. Go in there for what you want.’ She went in, she wrote this magnificent piece, and started to cry in the middle of [reading it to the platform committee]. Jim Zogby, another member of our people on platform committee, read the rest of it. It passed unanimously, when they were refusing before, because people understood how heartfelt it was.”
Though his campaign came has come to an end, Senator Sanders, and, yes, Jane Sanders should be commended for their commitment to voice the concerns of American Indians to the larger electorate as they noticed American Indians in their search for America.
The post In Praise of Bernie: While Searching for America, He Noticed Native America appeared first on Native News Online.