National politics got personal Friday when Donald Trump Jr. made an 11th-hour campaign stop on the Navajo Nation.
Hundreds of Navajos chanted “Yeego Trump!” as the eldest son of the Republican presidential candidate rallied for votes in Shiprock, New Mexico, just five days before the election. Promising his father would clamp down on “inefficiency, waste, fraud and abuse,” Trump, 38, called on voters to reject the “politically elite” Democratic party.
“If we put a Trump in the White House, it’s someone who’s not part of this,” he said. “We’re giving a vote back to people who haven’t had a voice for generations.”
Joined by local Republicans, Trump Jr. toured northwest New Mexico in a last-minute effort to sway the vote in a state that has voted Democrat in three of the last four national elections. During his speech in Shiprock, the largest Navajo community in New Mexico, Trump Jr. thanked supporters for “having the guts” to vote Republican.
“I was told we didn’t have any Navajo support,” he told a crowd of more than 300. “So much of my speech is people coming up to me who aren’t supposed to be Trump supporters. Now I can add Navajos to that list.”
Borrowing his father’s slogan, Trump Jr. promised his father would “make America great again” by challenging the status quo. He called Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton “the most corrupt politician in the history of America” and said his father is the only candidate with the ability to keep promises.
“Donald Trump makes up his own mind,” he said. “He is not owned by anyone. He doesn’t need this job. …He could play golf all day long, but he wants this job so everyone can live the American dream, the way he did.”
The goal of the rally, hosted by Navajo Republicans of Shiprock, was to convince Navajo Republicans—a minority within a minority—to vote their conscience, not their registered party. An estimated 85 percent of Navajo voters are registered Democrats.
“For decades and decades, Democrats have run the show,” said Gary Bernally, a Vietnam veteran from Hogback, New Mexico. “What do we have to show for our loyalty? Nothing.”
Trump Jr. was joined by U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., a “genetic Republican” and a member of the Cherokee Nation who switched parties. Now chairman of Trump’s Native American Coalition and one of only two Natives in the U.S. House of Representatives, Mullin challenged voters to break with tradition and vote against the Democratic ticket.
“Traditionally, Indian country is said to vote straight Democrat,” he said. “Ask yourself why. Why is Indian country automatically Democrat? Are we better off today? We have resources under our feet, but we have to ask permission to go get them.”
Protesters gathered outside the Shiprock Chapter House, holding signs and banners and shouting anti-Trump slogans. Among them was 14-year-old Jazmin Hannah, of Shiprock. “I believe that Trump should not even be a candidate,” she said. “He doesn’t respect women. He doesn’t respect water and land rights. Even though I can’t vote, I believe that one bad president, one bad decision, will lead to another. I’m fighting for my own future.”
As the official rally broke up, protesters—flanked by tribal police—traded insults with Trump supporters. The two groups shouted at each other across a crowded parking lot.
Twenty-five-year-old Jordan Steele, of Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, traveled to Shiprock to protest Trump’s presence on Navajo land. The group was not there to support Clinton, he said—just to voice opposition to a candidate who has consistently insulted minorities.
“He’s on our homeland, so we have the right to say he’s not welcome,” Steele said. “His campaign doesn’t favor people of color. He doesn’t protect women or the LGBTQ group and his campaign is one of xenophobia.
“We want to make it clear that we’re not supporting Hillary here,” Steele said. “Neither one is the best candidate in this election. We’re just taking a stance against Trump.”