Bernie Sanders is perhaps the only presidential candidate ever to visit Indian Country to hold town hall meetings and discuss Native American concerns. That it’s taken over two-hundred years for any candidate to acknowledge how abysmally we’ve treated Native Americans should come as no surprise. No president so far has freely admitted how the federal government has broken most of the treaties signed with the tribes or promised redress for these crimes. After all, Indians are a small minority of voters and a poor minority at that.
It truly makes my heart glad when I witness the mutual respect between Bernie Sanders and the tribal elders he’s spoken with along the campaign trail in places such as Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and now the West. Bernie frequently says how much he admires the first peoples’ closeness to nature, and they, in return, express admiration for Bernie’s listening to them as equals. Bernie sees Native Americans as a people worthy of compassion, consideration and conversation. Corporate politicians have seen them only as impediments to building oil pipelines or full-scale fracking operations. Still other politicians see the tribes’ claims to sacred ancestral lands as an impediment to selling mineral rights to foreign mining companies such as at Oak Flats in Arizona. Native Americans for many in Washington DC are to be “seen” as tourist attractions and not “heard” as the fellow citizens they are.
When Bernie Sanders shows up at a town hall in Pine Ridge, a remote part of the American West, of course mainstream media can’t be bothered to report on it. (Fortunately, there is You Tube with plenty of alternative media channels.) 90% of American TV and radio stations and print publications are owned by six corporations. (Just six!) The mainstream media pundits’ masters are their biggest advertisers–BP, Shell Oil, Exxon Mobil–and they don’t want news coverage about the problems caused by their abuse of Native America’s lands and people in their endless quest for bigger profits.
After all, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian,” in the minds of many super-wealthy. Killing Indians and their way of life through a media black-out of their issues and supporters is the 21st century equivalent of this racist adage in action.
At Bernie Sanders’ Pine Ridge town hall inadequate health care, the need for better schools and free college education, youth unemployment and the substandard treatment of veterans were all discussed. In Indian Country, Whites and Native Americans alike suffer when the top 1% of Americans hoards 90% of our country’s wealth and then schemes to not pay their fair share of taxes by buying off politicians through Citizens United. If there’s one thing all Americans can learn from Native Americans it’s that when we ignore the health of the community, the whole of society, focusing energy only on the privileged few, we do so at our own risk. To destroy land, air, water and people in the name of massive profits for a handful of rich families means the eventual death of all.
Bernie holding a town hall in Indian Country raises hopes that America can heal itself of the sickness of exploitation by corporate-owned politicians. Mother Earth can be saved by investing in clean energy sources, such as solar and wind, and by investing in the physical, social and economic health of her children. I smile to think how my Blackfoot and Cree ancestors are watching and silently applauding Bernie Sanders for his efforts to bring justice back to our world and to Human Beings.
Some links you may find informative:
Native American Policy | Bernie Sanders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLlnlxnrKhScnD04MOcQYC-LTiwnrjlnCp&v=vHK6SoSTlSc
Bernie Sanders: Empowering Tribal Nations: https://berniesanders.com/issues/empower-tribal-nations/
The Only Presidential Candidate That Makes Indian Country a Priority: Native People Feeling the Bern: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/03/18/only-presidential-candidate-makes-indian-country-priority-native-people-feeling-bern
Winona LaDuke Supports Bernie Sanders for President: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEbCNEAa-70
Bernie Sanders names Tara Houska Native American Advisor to the Campaign: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/02/25/1490934/-Bernie-Sanders-Names-Tara-Houska-Native-American-Advisor-to-the-Campaign
Bio: Cindy A. Matthews is a freelance writer, novelist and editor of The Bernie Blog. http://bernie2016.blogspot.com