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1A Across America: Indigenous And In Office

Courtesy of Sharice Davids' office | Christine T. Nguyen/MPR News

Last year, Sharice Davids (D-KS), a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, and Deb Haaland (D-NM), a member of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe, became the first two Native American women elected to Congress. And Peggy Flanagan (D), a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, became the highest-ranking Native woman in executive office in U.S. history after being elected lieutenant governor of Minnesota.

Some called 2018 “the year of the Native woman.”

From Indian Country Today:

The year of the Native woman was all about networks […] But this network now becomes an important mechanism for governing. Ideas can get traded across state lines. There will be sharing of knowledge ranging from how to get elected (for future candidates) to how to make a bill become law.

Indeed, already Rep-elect Haaland and other new members of legislatures have said they want investigations and a resolution on missing and murdered Native women. Others have talked about expanding health care services, including Medicaid. And, perhaps, most important, many of talked about protecting the right of Native Americans to vote. The timing of that last promise is critical right now because the once a decade census will begin soon and with it the next round of apportionment, drawing the very lines that determine representation.

While Native American candidates made big gains in the midterms, they still have some of the poorest representation in the U.S. government — and that means poor representation of tribal issues, too.

Plus, as High Country News reports, many tribal citizens face major obstacles when trying to vote in elections — including inadequate translation services, restrictive election laws, voter purges and unequal internet access.

What impact are Native American elected officials having at the federal, state and local levels? And why are tribal citizens so underrepresented in government?

We talk with Rep. Davids and Lt. Gov. Flanagan about the issues facing tribal citizens around the country.

Show produced by Across America producer James Morrison. Text by Kathryn Fink.

1A Across America is funded through a grant from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPB is a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967 that is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting.


Peggy Flanagan, Lieutenant Governor, Minnesota; @LtGovFlanagan

Mark Trahant, Editor, Indian Country Today; Member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes; @TrahantReports

Sharice Davids, Democratic Representative, Kansas; @RepDavids

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