#NativeVote16 – Campaign notes: Wab Kinew runs for office, Juneau’s first, and Sanders’ tribal policy.

Wab Kinew announcing his candidacy for a legislative seat in Manitoba. (Photo via Twitter.)

Mark Trahant


One of Canada’s most inspirational voices is running for office. Wab Kinew describes himself as “Father, Writer, Journalist, University Dude, Anishinaabemowin Advocate, Martial Arts Fan.” And add to that list: politician. He’s now a candidate for the Manitoba Legislature representing the New Democratic Party.

The NDP press release said Kinew “is a one-of-a-kind talent, named by the National Post as ‘an aboriginal leader seeking to engage with Canadians at large.’ He is the Associate Vice-President for Indigenous Relations at The University of Winnipeg and the author of the Number 1 national bestseller “The Reason You Walk: A Memoir.”

“I think that the best course of action for our economy is for our government to continue investing in creating good jobs — good jobs that pay good wages,” Kinew said in his announcement for the Winnipeg area seat. “The worst thing you could do right now is to begin cutting jobs, and I think that the second worst thing you could do right now is to begin cutting wages.”

This is big news for many reasons. First Kinew has star power that goes far beyond the Native community. He will be challenging the Liberal Party’s Leader (kind of like running against the other party’s candidate for governor) Rana Bokhar. So already the Canadian media is asking if this race mean Kinew will be on the NDP’s leadership team. Kinew responded to that question deftly, saying the party already has solid leadership.

Kinew has a huge social media following. He told his 45,000-plus Twitter followers on Tuesday: “I’ll need your help on this journey and would appreciate all of your support! Miigwech”

The provincial election is April 19.

This. Is how to enter a legislature as a member



Speaking of Canada, another win for a First Nation candidate. Melanie Mark, who is Nisga’a, Gitxsan, Cree, and Ojibway, swept into office with more than 60 percent of the vote and will represent the Vancouver-Mount Pleasant district.


According to The Georgia Straight newspaper, Mark focused her campaign on achieving a fairer deal for low-income people, highlighting the lack of affordable housing, the precarious job market, and rising tuition, medical-services, and B.C. Hydro fees.

“I don’t come from money or privilege, but I’m very fortunate. I achieved a degree in political science at SFU after attending several different schools, including Van Tech,” she wrote in The George Straight. “I’ve had a successful career as an advocate. From volunteering in organizations like Big Sisters and as president of the Urban Native Youth Association, to working with the Native Court Workers’ Association, Covenant House, the RCMP in Hazelton as a summer student, and as the national aboriginal project coordinator for Save the Children Canada’s–Sacred Lives Project, I built on these experiences to take on leadership roles in our community.”


Juneau: And the campaign goes on

Denise Juneau, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, and a candidate for Congress, revealed publicly that she is gay at a fundraiser. According to The Billings Gazette, Juneau “has been open for some time about her sexuality, without making a big deal of it.”

“She was very open about it. I think everyone appreciated how she handled it,” Dorothy Bradley told KTVQ news. The former state legislator and 1992 gubernatorial candidate who attended Juneau fundraiser. said, “She handled it like, ‘This is no big deal .. and, the campaign goes on.'”

The TV news report said “Juneau has already made Montana political history as the first Native American woman to win election to statewide office. Now, she’s also the first openly gay candidate to seek a federal post.”

Juneau is a member of the Mandan and Hidatsa Tribes and a descendant of the Blackfeet tribe. She was raised in Browning. In 2008 Juneau became the first American Indian woman to win a statewide office, Superintendent of Public Instruction. She was re-elected to that post in 2012.

Sanders announces initiatives at Affiliated NW tribes meeting

At the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Meeting this week, Nicole Willis announced that presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders was creating a policy advisory committee on Native American issues. She said the committee’s membership will be announced soon.

She said Sanders has already announced that he will continue President Obama’s tribal nations conference, keep a senior Native American advisor on staff at the White House, and work to restore tribal jurisdiction to improve local decision-making. He also pledged to expand the Violence Against Women Act and find additional funding for the Generation Indigenous initiative.

Willis said that Sen. Sanders pledged to have a climate change summit within the first 100 days of his administration and that tribes would be included as full participants.

Willis joined the Sanders campaign last week as an advisor. She is a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon, worked for the Obama campaign, and was deputy director for First Americans at Obama for America.


Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports


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Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant is an independent journalist. He currently serves as the Charles R. Johnson Professor at the University of North Dakota.

One thought on “#NativeVote16 – Campaign notes: Wab Kinew runs for office, Juneau’s first, and Sanders’ tribal policy.”

  1. So…does this mean that, should Bernie become prez, that the US response to UNDRIP will limp along the same path? As in, “we deal with tribes in the BIA system and screw all the other ones.” But perhaps Sen. Sanders, coming from a state with no federally recognized tribes, is not willing to rock the boat. In any case, sigh…

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