Heading into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair election, the six Native American DNC members representing the states of NM, WA, GA, MO, and NE converged on Atlanta divided in their preferences in the Chair’s race but, in the end, united around the new DNC Chair, Tom Perez. Immediately after Tom Perez won, he nominated Congressman Keith Ellison as his Deputy Chair, which led to raucous applause by the supporters of both candidates and unanimous support by the DNC membership.
Tom Perez, the former Labor Secretary in the Obama Administration and Congressman Keith Ellison were the top two candidates in a spirited election process. The Native DNC members gathered with Tom Perez after his win for a congratulatory photo and a discussion on his commitment to Indian Country.
Rion Ramirez, Chairman of the Native American Council for the DNC stated, “With the election of Tom Perez, and the naming of Keith Ellison as Deputy Chair, I believe the political future of Native people throughout Indian Country is the brightest I have ever seen in the Democratic Party!”
Debra Haaland, the Chair for the Democratic Party of New Mexico and the first Native American to chair a state party in the country noted that, “Both candidates know our issues and both worked hard for our support. I left Atlanta completely energized and ready to fight the Republican Party’s harmful agenda, and disrespect for Indian tribes.”
Vice Chair for the Democratic Party of Nebraska, Frank LaMere, stated “I am very encouraged by the intent of the DNC and the new leadership to appoint more Native people to the DNC. We need nine members to achieve Caucus status at the DNC and among those, a Native Veteran would be a valuable asset.” Native DNC members also pledged greater outreach and effort to have more Native folks run and win in Party elections.
Joe Pakootas, Vice Chair for the Democratic Party of Washington noted that “The Democratic Party is ready to take the fight to the president and the Republicans; we are united in our concerns for our environment, protecting the middle class, equity and equality, and we must work together from the ground up in every state to achieve our goals.”
Idaho State Representative Paulette Jordan attended the DNC Meeting to support the new leadership and the Native American Council and to heighten the voice from Indian Country. Paulette stated that she was encouraged by “Their ability as leaders to come together in good faith to draw from the energy of the people and seek a broader solution to unite all ages and backgrounds given the current condition of our country.” She further stated, “Our younger generations are looking for a party to call home, and it is vastly critical to build a party that is inclusive of those voices who are frustrated with our current political system and lack of government transparency.”
Chairman Perez and Congressman Ellis have proven to us that they are committed to bringing our communities together, growing progressive candidates in every state, and building our next generation of leaders to continue carrying our platform of inclusion.
With midterm elections around the corner, the DNC will work diligently to hone and deliver our message from Indian Country to coal country – of equality, economic fairness, justice, workers’ rights, voting rights, affordable healthcare, quality public education for all, unequivocal support to our Veterans, and an America that removes barriers to everyone’s opportunity for success. We all pledged our support to stay united and fight for our future and the values we hold dear as Democrats.
Contributors to this article are as follows: Rion Ramirez, (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), Chair DNC Native American Council; Debra Haaland, (Laguna Pueblo), Chair, Democratic Party of New Mexico; Frank LaMere, (Winnebago), Vice Chair, Democratic Party of Nebraska; Joe Pakootas, (Colville), Vice Chair, Democratic Party of Washington State; R. Genevieve Williams, (Chickasaw), Vice Chair, Democratic Party of Missouri; Daniel Halpern, (Cayuga Nation) Co-Chair DNC Budget and Finance Committee & DNC Executive Committee Member; and Paulette Jordan, (Coeur D’Alene), Idaho State Representative.
Gyasi Ross, Editor at Large
Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories
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