Will Rogers

‘Will Rogers was always a Cherokee’

Vincent Schilling

Nov 21, 2020

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is buying the family ranch where young Will Rogers grew up

Vincent Schilling

Indian Country Today

The Cherokee Nation has agreed to purchase Will Rogers’ historic home and family ranch in northeastern Oklahoma, promising restoration and repairs to the birthplace of the renowned actor and humorist.

A signing ceremony formalizing the purchase from the Oklahoma Historical Society was held on Nov. 4, Rogers’ birthday.

(L-R): Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., District 12 Tribal Councilor Dora Patzkowski, District 14 Tribal Councilor Keith Austin, District 15 Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor and Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner. (Courtesy Cherokee Nation)
(L-R): Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., District 12 Tribal Councilor Dora Patzkowski, District 14 Tribal Councilor Keith Austin, District 15 Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor and Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner. (Courtesy Cherokee Nation)

“Will Rogers’ humor and his unique ability to make complicated political and economic issues easy to understand made him a powerful social critic and commentator,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., in a written statement released by the tribe. “He captivated audiences around the nation because his humor never insulted or belittled anyone – he was simply telling the truth about people in positions of power.

“He was called ‘The Cherokee Kid’ in his early entertainment career and always embraced his culture and his tribe. No matter how popular he was, Will Rogers was always a Cherokee, and he talked about it. He reminded people every day that there are Native people of this land still alive and who remain a vibrant part of America’s tapestry. It is quite fitting that the Cherokee Nation will now have an opportunity to continue telling this story from such a unique perspective,” Hoskin said.

“Will Rogers’ humor and his unique ability to make complicated political and economic issues easy to understand made him a powerful social critic and commentator,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., in a written statement released by the tribe. (Courtesy photo)
“Will Rogers’ humor and his unique ability to make complicated political and economic issues easy to understand made him a powerful social critic and commentator,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., in a written statement released by the tribe. (Courtesy photo)

The sales price was not disclosed.

Dr. Bob Blackburn, the executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, a state agency that owns the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in nearby Claremore, said the investment by the Cherokee nation will help secure the legacy of the Rogers family ranch.

“The Oklahoma Historical Society and the Cherokee Nation have a long history of mutual respect, cooperation and shared resources,” Blackburn in a statement. “Every penny earned from this transfer will be invested in the Will Rogers Memorial Museum, located in the Cherokee Nation. Together, we will make sure the world will always remember the life and legacy of this famous Cherokee cowboy.”

The Cherokee Nation, which oversees seven other museums, two welcome centers and other retail operations, will manage the property through the tribe’s cultural tourism department.

(See related story: Google Doodle celebrates Cherokee actor Will Rogers)

‘Oklahoma’s Favorite Son’

will-rogers-feat

William Penn Adair Rogers was born Nov. 4, 1879, on the family ranch in Oologah, Oklahoma, northeast of Tulsa, the youngest of eight children of Clement Vann Rogers and Mary America Schrimsher.

The ranch started as a 20-acre site but grew to about 60,000 acres at its peak. In the late 1890s, however, the ranch was reduced through allotments created by the Curtis and Dawes acts. The family worked to purchase back land and was able to reclaim approximately 2,000 acres. Today, the property, which includes the ranch-style home and three buildings, is approximately 162 acres.

In his early 20s, Rogers sought to join the entertainment industry, where his skills with a rope and horse drew attention. He worked in vaudeville then joined the Ziegfeld Follies, which led to movie contracts. He would go on to star in more than 70 movies, write a syndicated newspaper column and author seven books. He was also a radio commentator.https://www.youtube.com/embed/W9V9l5eJCVs?autoplay=0&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Findiancountrytoday.com&widgetid=1

He became known throughout Hollywood and the film industry as “The Cherokee Kid” and “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son.”

Perhaps his most famous line was, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” He also poked fun at political conventions, declaring, “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

Rogers died at age 56 in a plane crash with well-known Oklahoma aviator Wiley Post on Aug. 15, 1935, in Point Barrow, Alaska. He is buried at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, along with other members of his family.

His legacy has endured. On his birthday in 2019, Google honored him with a Google Doodle on the Google home page.

Will Roger's Google Doodle

Preserving his legacy

At the signing ceremony in early November, Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief Bryan Warner emphasized the importance of Rogers’ legacy as a citizen of the tribe.

“Today is a good day to celebrate this historic site and all that has been accomplished here by those who acted as caretakers of the land for many decades, including the Oklahoma Historical Society,” said Warner. “The story of Will Rogers is such an integral part of Oklahoma history and Cherokee Nation history. I want to thank the Oklahoma Historical Society for preserving this site and allowing folks from all across the world to get a glimpse of the famed Cherokee humorist who left a lasting impression on so many of us.”

Keith Austin, Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor, said he grew up just a few miles from the family’s ranch.

“This is a proud moment for [the] Cherokee Nation and the beginning of what I know will be a promising future for this treasured site,” Austin said. “The Will Rogers birthplace was an important part of my childhood. I spent a lot of time here, and it is a true honor to have the opportunity to share the Cherokee story of Will Rogers and the Rogers family ranch.

“Today, we celebrate part of our Cherokee roots being returned to the Cherokee people, and I’m proud and humbled to be part of it,” he said.

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Vincent Schilling, Akwesasne Mohawk, is associate editor at Indian Country Today. He enjoys creating media, technology, computers, comics, and movies. He is a film critic and writes the #NativeNerd column. Twitter @VinceSchilling. TikTok @VinceSchilling. Email: vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com.

¨Thankstaking¨

Lakota Law header

Season’s greetings to you and yours! I suspect that this year, you may be feeling a bit muted in your celebrations. With the pandemic still raging around the world, many of us won’t have the opportunity to get together with loved ones in the way we’re accustomed. Of course, some of us in Native communities already have issues with Thanksgiving — which I call Thankstaking — because it’s a holiday that unfortunately reminds us of all we have lost.

It seems somehow appropriate then that Giving Tuesday follows closely on the heels of this holiday. It gives us all an opportunity to consider the true spirit of giving differently. By giving to support Native justice now, you have a way to honor Native communities on a painful day. And because a group of our generous patrons has offered to match all gifts we receive between now and the end of next week, your contribution will make twice the impact.

In this week’s members-only event for monthly contributors, Chase and I discussed Thanksgiving and our accomplishments together.

And what an impact we’ve been making together! We’re still joyful about the success we had getting out the national Native vote in partnership with Standing Rock — and now we’ve got our sights set on how we can build on that success. I’ve got one word for you: Georgia.

This week, our staff spent time in Atlanta solidifying partnerships with the NAACP and the Indigenous Peoples Movement so we can effectively work together to get out the vote for the upcoming U.S. Senate run-off elections in the Peach State.

There are almost 40,000 Indigenous people in Georgia. There are also many environmental, Hispanic, and Black voters who share some political values with Native people. The state has the ninth youngest population in America and the third largest Black population. But the historical pattern in Georgia has been that, during runoffs, people of color and younger folks tend to vote in smaller numbers than during presidential elections. We aim to change that. Our focus will be making sure that everyone who voted in November votes again by Jan. 5. 

We aren’t ready to rest. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be back at Standing Rock replicating our successful outreach from tribal members to all voters who will listen to them. And we plan to offer you all a chance to join our phonebank effort as well — please stay tuned! Thank you for being there for us every step of the way! With your support, we can keep the historic wins coming.

Wopila Tanka — thank you, and I wish you well this holiday season!

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
Lakota People’s Law Project

Lakota People's Law Project

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Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.

Something Done Right…but

*We should re-evaluate the sport franchises we support. ~Michel

Dalton Walker

3 hours ago

Updated: The team says it’s reviewing its philanthropic strategy and will no longer contribute to the Original Americans Foundation

Dalton Walker
Indian Country Today

The Washington NFL team dumped its controversial mascot earlier this year and now, it appears it has dumped its foundation created to help Native people.

The team will no longer make contributions to the Original Americans Foundation and will instead focus its charitable efforts on the Washington Football Charitable Foundation, USA Today reported this week. The Washington Football Charitable Foundation will continue to assist Native communities, according to the newspaper, but it’s unclear how.

“As part of our evolution into a franchise of the future, the Washington Football Team’s new leadership is reviewing our philanthropic strategy,” read a team statement to USA Today.

A spokeswoman for the foundation confirmed the shift away from the Original Americans Foundation and a new philanthropic strategy to Indian Country Today.

Julie Jenson said part of the strategy is working with advisors and leadership within the Native American community that is long term and sustainable. Strategy specifics haven’t been built out yet, she said.

In July, the team said it was retiring its logo and nickname, a dictionary-defined racial slur, after mounting pressure from activists and sponsors. It hasn’t made a public decision on a new name and is competing in this NFL season as the Washington Football Team.

(Related: Washington NFL team kicks out R-word)

The team launched the Original Americans Foundation in 2014. An announcement on its website from that time outlined its goals and cited its ability to “provide resources that offer genuine opportunities for tribal communities.”

According to the post, Synder and his staff traveled to 26 reservations in 20 states and met with 400 tribal leaders.

“The fact is, too many Native American communities face much harsher, much more alarming realities,” Snyder said in the announcement. “I’ve listened. I’ve learned. And frankly, it’s heart wrenching. It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. We must do more.”

It also noted the foundation had given a new backhoe to the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, among 40-plus projects being processed that year.

USA Today reported that the foundation donated $3.7 million in its first year, $1.6 million in the second, $650,000 in the 2017 fiscal year, $303,000 in the 2018 fiscal year, and $0 in 2019. It’s unclear where the money was spent or which tribes benefited.

The NFL franchise is facing sexual harassment claims that were recently exposed by the Washington Post. The report names Original Americans Foundation Executive Director Gary Edwards as one of the franchise employees accused of sexual harassment.

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Story has been updated to include comment from Washington Football Charitable Foundation

Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter: @daltonwalker Walker is based in Phoenix and enjoys Arizona winters.

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.

Dam Demolition

Deal revives plan for largest US dam demolition

“At its heart, dam removal is about healing and restoration for the river, for the salmon, and for our people,” Yurok Tribe chairman Joseph James said. “We have never wavered from this obligation, and we are pleased to see dam removal come closer to reality through this agreement.”

In this March 3, 2020, file photo, is the Iron Gate Dam, powerhouse and spillway are on the lower Klamath River near Hornbrook, Calif. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus, File)

The Associated Press

Nov 17, 2020

Tribes hope the dam removal will allow the salmon to come back

Gillian Flaccus
Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — An agreement announced Tuesday paves the way for the largest dam demolition in U.S. history, a project that promises to reopen hundreds of miles of waterway along the Oregon-California border to salmon that are critical to tribes but have dwindled to almost nothing in recent years.

If it goes forward, the deal would revive plans to remove four massive hydroelectric dams on the lower Klamath River, emptying giant reservoirs and reopening potential fish habitat that’s been blocked for more than a century. The massive project would be at the vanguard of a trend toward dam demolitions in the U.S. as the structures age and become less economically viable amid growing environmental concerns about the health of native fish.

Previous efforts to address problems in the Klamath Basin have fallen apart amid years of legal sparring that generated distrust among tribes, fishing groups, farmers and environmentalists. Opponents of dam removal worry about their property values and the loss of a water source for fighting wildfires.

“It is bleak, but I want to have hope that with dam removal and with all the prayers that we’ve been sending up all these years, salmon could come back. If we just give them a chance, they will,” said Chook Chook Hillman, a Karuk tribal member who’s been fighting for the dam removal for years. “If you provide a good place for salmon, they’ll always come home.”

A half-dozen tribes spread across Oregon and California, fishing groups and environmentalists had hoped to see demolition work begin as soon as 2022. But in July, U.S. regulators stalled those plans when they questioned whether the nonprofit entity formed to oversee the project could adequately respond if there were cost overruns or accidents.

The new plan makes Oregon and California equal partners in the demolition with the nonprofit entity, called the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, and adds $45 million to the project’s $450 million budget to ease those concerns. Oregon, California and the utility PacifiCorp, which operates the hydroelectric dams and is owned by billionaire Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway, will each provide one-third of the additional funds.

Parties to the new agreement shared details with The Associated Press in documents and interviews ahead of a news conference scheduled Tuesday.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must approve the deal. If accepted, it would allow PacifiCorp and Berkshire Hathaway to walk away from aging dams that are more of an albatross than a profit-generator, while addressing regulators’ concerns. Oregon, California and the nonprofit would jointly take over the hydroelectric license from PacifiCorp until the dams are decommissioned, while the nonprofit will oversee the work.

Buffett called the reworked deal a solution to a “very complex challenge.”

“I recognize the importance of Klamath dam removal and river restoration for tribal people in the Klamath Basin,” Buffett said in a statement. “We appreciate and respect our tribal partners for their collaboration in forging an agreement that delivers an exceptional outcome for the river, as well as future generations.” 

Removed would be the four southernmost dams in a string of six constructed in southern Oregon and far Northern California beginning in 1918. 

They were built solely for power generation. They are not used for irrigation, not managed for flood control and have no “fish ladders,” or concrete chutes that fish can pass through. 

They have blocked hundreds of miles of potential fish habitat and spawning grounds, and fish populations have dropped precipitously in recent years. Salmon are at the heart of the culture, beliefs and diet of a half-dozen regional tribes, including the Yurok and Karuk — both parties to the agreement — and they have suffered deeply from that loss.

Coho salmon from the Klamath River are listed as threatened under federal and California law, and their population in the river has fallen anywhere from 52 percent to 95 percent. Spring chinook salmon, once the Klamath Basin’s largest run, has dwindled by 98 percent.

Fall chinook, the last to persist in any significant numbers, have been so meager in the past few years that the Yurok canceled fishing for the first time in the tribe’s memory. In 2017, they bought fish at a grocery store for their annual salmon festival.

“At its heart, dam removal is about healing and restoration for the river, for the salmon, and for our people,” Yurok Tribe chairman Joseph James said. “We have never wavered from this obligation, and we are pleased to see dam removal come closer to reality through this agreement.” 

PacifiCorp has been operating the dams under an extension of its expired hydroelectric license for years. The license was originally granted before modern environmental laws and renewing it would mean costly renovations to install fish ladders. The utility has said energy generated by the dams no longer makes up a significant part of its portfolio.

In the original deal, PacifiCorp was to transfer its license and contribute $200 million to bow out of the removal project and avoid further costs and liability. An additional $250 million comes from a voter-approved California water bond.

U.S. regulators, however, agreed only on the condition that PacifiCorp remain a co-licensee along with the Klamath River Renewal Corporation — a nonstarter for the utility.

Residents have been caught in the middle. As tribes watched salmon dwindle, some homeowners around a huge reservoir created by Copco Dam, one of those slated for removal, have sued to stop the demolition. 

They say their waterfront property values are already declining because of news coverage associated with demolition and they worry about losing a water source for fighting wildfires in an increasingly fire-prone landscape. Many also oppose the use of ratepayer funds for the project.

On Tuesday, some Oregon lawmakers issued statements saying Gov. Kate Brown had violated her authority by authorizing the deal without legislative approval.

Further upstream, farmers who rely on two other dams are watching carefully. The removal of the lower four dams won’t affect them directly, but they worry it could set a precedent for dam removal on the Klamath.

More than 1,720 dams have been dismantled around the U.S. since 2012, according to American Rivers, and 26 states undertook dam removal projects in 2019 alone. The Klamath River project would be the largest such project by far if it proceeds.

New Veterans Memorial

Kolby KickingWoman

Nov 11, 2020

‘This memorial is a fitting tribute to their patriotism and deep commitment to this country’

Kolby KickingWoman
Indian Country Today

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., is commemorating Veterans Day 2020 by unveiling the National Native American Veterans Memorial.

The museum originally planned to host a veterans’ procession and dedication ceremony but is looking to reschedule those events for later due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The installation sits on the museum’s grounds and is a short walk from the U.S. Capitol. 

The Arts in the Time of Covid

I have used the virtual world for education long before the lock-down restrictions of Covid-19. I invite everyone to visit the educational site – the Wounded Knee Memorial at:

Seaside Dreams in Kitley: grid.kitely.com:8002:Seaside Dreams

First, go to: https://www.kitely.com/ sign up for free and then go to the world, Seaside Dreams. Upon arriving you will see a teleporter to the memorial.

¨Please visit my other world: Seaside Dreams for the interactive Wounded Knee Memorial. This memorial commemorates the massacre December 29th, 1890 in which 300+ Lakota died in a unjust and horrific way by the U,S, Calvary. Please come explore and learn how these past events connect to current events. You will find the teleporter to the memorial upon arriving at Seaside Dreams. hop://grid.kitely.com:8002/Seaside%20Dreams/218/121/22

There was a special discussion and interview: See it here: https://virtualoutworlding.blogspot.com/2018/02/2018-edu-massacre-at-wounded-knee.html¨

Because of Covid-19 we are restricted in attending large gatherings. You will also find at Kitely the world Gallery No. 8 and Town Center.

grid.kitely.com:8002:Gallery No.8 and Town Center

There we host an annual Native American Film festival. Upon arrival you will find information about the festival and where you can find the latest film streaming.

This year´s festival must be virtual and I encourage everyone to support the arts and film makers everywhere you can. The arts are severely affected. Red Nation Film Festival | 2020 Films

November 2020: The Vote

Native vote plays powerful role, especially in swing states

President Donald Trump, left, points towards Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, right, during the second and final presidential debate Thursday at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Election 2020

Oct 29, 2020

Voting advocates predict Native voters will come out in force despite challenges #NativeVote20

Mary Annette Pember 
Indian Country Today

Native American and Alaska Native voters have the power to determine the next president.

“Had Native voters turned out in 2016, we would likely have had a very different outcome in the presidential election,” said OJ Semans, executive director of Four Directions Inc., a Native American voting rights advocacy organization. Semans is a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe.

Native voters stand to play a crucial role in the 2020 election, especially in swing states where they make up significant portions of eligible voters. States in which two major parties have similar levels of support and high numbers of electoral votes are also home to large Native populations.

The approximately 3.7 million Natives and Alaska Natives of voting age are represented in this election’s crucial swing states.

Swing states and percentage of eligible Native voters:

  • Arizona — 5.6 percent
  • Colorado — 2.5 percent
  • Michigan — 1.4 percent
  • Minnesota — 1.8 percent
  • Nevada — 2.5 percent
  • North Carolina — 2.1 percent
  • Wisconsin — 1.5 percent
OJ Semans is executive director of Four Directions Inc, a Native American voting rights advocacy group. (Photo courtesy Four Directions)
OJ Semans is executive director of Four Directions Inc, a Native American voting rights advocacy group. (Photo courtesy of Four Directions)

At first glance, it might appear that the numbers are insignificant; however, if President Donald Trump’s narrow margin of victory in several states during the 2016 presidential election is any indication, the Native vote stands to play an important role in this election.

“Trump won the state during the 2016 election by 0.7 percent. We could have very well have swung that election,” said Guy Reiter of Menikanaehken Inc., a grassroots organization based on the Menominee reservation in northeast Wisconsin. In addition to working to revitalize its community, Menikanaehken Inc. is working to increase voter engagement and registration.

In the 2016 presidential election, however, only 1.8 million Native voters turned out, about half of the eligible voters.

According to the National Congress of American Indians, the voter rate among Native Americans is five to 14 percentage points lower than that of other racial groups.

These low rates have been attributed to a number of issues, including barriers to voting such as lack of polling places near or on reservations, voter registration requirements that call for physical mailing addresses (many Native folks on remote reservations maintain post office boxes rather than receive mail at home) and a general history of disenfranchisement and distrust of the federal government that goes back generations.

COVID-19 is creating further barriers for Indian Country as many turn to mail in voting as a means to mitigate exposure to the virus that has hit Native communities such as the Navajo Nation and Wisconsin tribes hard. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a lower court decision rejecting a lawsuit brought by six Navajo voters seeking to allow an extra 10 days for ballots mailed from the Navajo Nation to be counted. Similarly, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Wisconsin voting laws rejecting efforts to allow absentee ballots to be counted sent back to election officials on or just before election day.

Despite these challenges, Native leaders and voting advocates are confident that this election will be a game changer.

According to the newly released Indigenous Futures Survey — directed by IllumiNative, the Native Organizers Alliance and the Center for Native American Youth — Native Americans, especially youth, are highly engaged in the political process. About 5 percent of youth respondents were not old enough to vote in the 2016 election.

A high level of engagement in the political process such as signing petitions, sharing political content online, participating in a community action group, attending a protest both before and after the death of George Floyd, are predictors of greater voter turnout, according to survey authors.

The survey was conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of California, Berkeley from June 23 to Aug. 15, with responses from 6,460 Native people of voting age across the U.S. representing 401 tribes.

The survey was conducted online due to restrictions of the pandemic.

According to its findings, Native people living in battleground or swing states report higher voting rates than those in other locations.

Fifty-one percent of respondents identified as Democrats, 26 percent as independent, 9 percent as Democratic Socialist and 7 percent as Republican. The remainder identified as Libertarian, Green Party or Socialist.

The large number of Native candidates in local and state elections will also influence greater voter turnout, according to the survey’s authors.

Native voting rights advocates such as Reiter and Semans agree that more Native people will vote during this election, especially youth.

“There’s greater interest in this election cycle, especially among young people. They are really excited about voting; they are seeing the opportunity for us to make sure that Wisconsin goes in a way that represents Indigenous people,” Reiter said.

Maria Dadger is executive director of the Intertribal Council of Arizona. (Photo by Patty Talahongva)
Maria Dadger is executive director of the Intertribal Council of Arizona. (Photo by Patty Talahongva)

According to Maria Dadger, executive director of the Intertribal Council of Arizona based in Phoenix, Native youth have been especially responsive to the council’s social media voting outreach.

“The response from Native voters between 18-24 has been phenomenal,” she said.

Environmental quality, health and education are huge issues of concern for tribes, according to Dadger.

Indeed, researchers with the Indigenous Futures Survey found that health care, especially mental health, and the environment were among respondents’ top concerns.

Candidates take notice

Notably both the Biden and Trump campaigns are courting the Native vote; Joe Biden and Kamala Harris met with tribal leaders last month in Phoenix and later released their 15 page “Biden-Harris Plan for Tribal Nations.”

Joe Biden met with tribal leaders at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. (Photo by Carina Dominguez)
Joe Biden met with tribal leaders at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. (Photo by Carina Dominguez, Indian Country Today)

According to their plan, a Biden administration will fully fund the Indian Health Service and potentially make funding mandatory rather than discretionary. The Biden-Harris plan also commits to aim to achieve net-zero emissions and ensure that investments in clean energy reach Native communities. Biden has also promised to end fossil fuel subsidies.

Later in October, Trump released his three-page policy vision for Indian Country, shortly after his son Donald Trump Jr. launched the Native Americans for Trump coalition in Williams, Arizona.

In his “Putting America’s First Peoples First: Forgotten More!” plan, Trump promised to respect tribal sovereignty and self-determination, promote safe communities, build a thriving economy with improved infrastructure, honor Native American heritage, improve education and deliver health care.

The Trump campaign launched its Native American Coalition in Williams, Arizona. (Photo by Carina Dominguez)
The Trump campaign launched its Native American Coalition in Williams, Arizona. (Photo by Carina Dominguez, Indian Country Today)

In a follow-up email to Indian Country Today’s request for details about Trump’s plans to deliver health care, Jennifer Kelly, advisor for regional communications and Hispanic median engagement wrote: “The Federal government remains committed to meeting existing federal trust and treaty obligations. Unfortunately, politicians of both parties, including some who have been in Washington, DC for several decades have fallen short. Thankfully, President Trump is not afraid to tackle long-overlooked challenges, just as he has done with the issue of Missing and Murdered Native Americans. A few examples of elevating the commitment to the trust relationship in the plan surround the provisions to improve education and healthcare in Indian Country. President Trump’s FY 2021 budget, for example, proposed a $185 million (3 percent) increase for Indian Health Service (IHS) funding totaling $6.2 billion. The President also launched the IHS Task (Force) to tackle long overlooked abuses in the IHS.”

Trump also promised to empower tribes to pursue responsible energy development on their lands.

Trump’s record on the environment and support for fossil fuel development, mining and pipelines that frequently impact Native lands and communities, however, has not gone unnoticed in Indian Country.

Trump famously approved the Dakota Access Pipeline, the subject of months-long opposition, near the Standing Rock Reservation within a month of taking office. The president has been an enthusiastic supporter of oil and gas pipeline development, the coal industry, mining in areas such as the Boundary Waters in Minnesota and opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. During his administration, the Environmental Protection Agency has streamlined the environmental review process and timeline for pipelines and mining projects.

According to Dadger, access to clean, safe water is paramount to Native people in Arizona; the fallout from coal and uranium mines continue to pollute drinking water on the Navajo reservation.

“In Arizona, water is gold,” Dadger said.

The state of Wisconsin repealed its mining moratorium during the Trump administration while the president has sought to fast-track mining projects, offering grants and loans to help companies pay for equipment.

Environmental health is a big concern for Native voters in Wisconsin, according to Reiter.

“I don’t think there’s a tribe here in Wisconsin that isn’t fighting some sort of environmental threat from mining or pipelines. As Indigenous people, we don’t have the luxury of relocating. This is our land,” Reiter said.

“If you still need an excuse to vote, I don’t know what world you’re living in,” he said.

Although voters in Indian Country continue to experience barriers, Semans is hopeful for this election.

“In a matter of a week, we registered 1,600 people in Minnesota, 1,700 in Arizona and 1,800 in South Dakota. I’m really excited for Indian Country,” he said.

Professor Arianne Eason of the University of California-Berkeley, a researcher with the Indigenous Futures Survey, agrees.

“We saw really high rates of civic and political engagement among respondents. That being said, there were still a lot of barriers that Indigenous people were facing, and some of it is really access to polling places. At the same time, we see that people really are taking very seriously what’s going on. And so when we look at what motivates people to vote, what people are really reporting, is caring about candidates’ platforms and their track record on Native and tribal issues.”

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Mary Annette Pember, a citizen of the Red Cliff Ojibwe tribe, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today.