#NativeVote16 – Native Americans for Trump, renewable energy & curiosity

Henry Red Cloud said South Dakota’s goal should be to increase renewable energy, cutting use by 0, 60, 80 percent.

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

One week. Lots to report.

Let’s start in Montana where Denise Juneau sought out Speaker Paul Ryan and asked to meet with him. Ryan was in Montana to campaign for Juneau’s opponent, Rep. Ryan Zinke.

It was an unusual request, to say the least. And Ryan’s response was  a quick no, staff writing, “The speaker was only briefly in Billings for a great rally with Ryan Zinke and other Republican leaders.”


Juneau’s pitched a “positive bipartisan working relationship” and to discuss issues important to Montana, including high school graduation rates.

That’s kind of funny when you think about it. And it’s a great way to change the story of the day.

I’ve been wondering how Juneau versus Zinke is playing on Google. There is still far more interest in Juneau, some thirty searches a day. That’s been consistent. (People must already know about Zinke because they’re not googling him.)

This doesn’t tell us anything about who’s voting, but it does show interest and curiosity. I guess no one is curious about Ryan Zinke.

Juneau versus Zinke on Google. Juneau searches are in red, Zinke in blue. As of October 31.

Juneau also reported another fundraising milestone. She ranks 6th in the country for congressional candidates who are raising money from small donors.  A small donation is considered less than $200.

Henry Red Cloud, who is running for the South Dakota Public Utility Commission, debated his opponent, incumbent Chris Nelson, in Sturgis on Saturday. According to the Watertown Public Opinion, Red Cloud made the case for renewable energy (he owns a solar energy company at Pine Ridge).

Nelson said that South Dakota doesn’t have an “optimal sun regime” and wind is intermittent. However he agreed that “South Dakota would see much more use of renewable systems in the coming years. Red Cloud said the goal ought to be for people to use less. “I’m not saying completely off-grid. No, I’m not saying that. Cutting back – cutting back 50, 60, 80 percent,” Red Cloud he said.

Red Cloud is one of two #NativeVote16 candidates running for a public utilities commission. The other is Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun in North Dakota.

Oklahoma Rep. MarkWayne Mullin is chairing Native Americans for Trump.

“The daily flood of new federal regulations keep Indian Country from becoming self-sufficient. Local tribal decisions, not federal bureaucrats, are the best way to improve our communities. As both an enrolled member of Cherokee Nation and a member of Congress, I will stand with Donald Trump in supporting tribal sovereignty and reining in federal over-regulation,” McMullin told The Washington Times. (Previous: Native Republicans make their case.)

The Times said the organization includes tribal leaders from 15 states and includes former Cherokee Chief Ross Swimmer and New Mexico Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage. She told The Times: “The Trump administration will ease restrictions on American energy reserves worth trillions of dollars. Together we will block the bureaucrats holding Native American businesses back and bring new jobs into our communities.”

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, is joining forces with a Maryland Democrat calling for a bipartisan Social Security commission. “Americans know that Social Security is on an unsustainable path,” Cole said in a written statement. “They know common sense reforms need to take place. And they know that duplicitous politicians and special interest groups will not hesitate to frighten the elderly with misinformation and outright lies if it means more votes or more contributions. It’s time for our elected leaders to demonstrate the same courage and common sense, and finally address this critical issue.”

So there you have it: There is still bipartisan work going on. Even in an election year. Just not in Montana.

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

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com

#NativeVote16 – North Dakota forges a new history from pipeline to ballots

History in North Dakota: Marlo Hunte-Bueaubrun, Standing Rock, running for the Public Service Commission, Chase Iron Eyes, Standing Rock, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, and Ruth Buffalo, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, is campaigning for state Insurance Commissioner. (Jaynie Parrish photo)


Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

It’s an understatement to say that North Dakota is making history.

The rush to build a new oil pipeline from the Bakken oil fields to Patoka, Illinois, was supposed to be routine. It was designed to avoid most regulation, especially federal oversight, and get built without fanfare. But when that route was moved so that it crossed under the Missouri River near the water source of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe everything changed. The issue united Indian Country in a way that’s unprecedented. While the state and the company are making history, too, by writing a soon-to-be case study about how not to handle a crisis.


But there is another chapter. No state in the history of the United States has ever had three Native Americans running as major party nominees for statewide offices. To put that in perspective in recent years: Larry EchoHawk, Pawnee, ran for attorney general (he won) and governor of Idaho (he lost). Byron Mallott, Tlingit, is the Lt. Gov. of Alaska, and Denise Juneau, Mandan Hidatsa Arikara, is Supt. of Public Instruction in Montana. There have been a few others candidates, but my point is they are scattered, one candidate is a big deal. So three Native American candidates is beyond extraordinary.

I have been criss-crossing North Dakota in recent days with Chase Iron Eyes, Ruth Buffalo, and Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun for public conversations on a range of issues. We started in Bismarck Thursday, Fargo on Friday, Grand Forks Saturday, and we will conclude in Minot today. Iron Eyes is running for Congress. Buffalo for the state’s insurance commissioner. And, Hunte-Beaubrun is running for the Public Service Commission, the agency that would regulate pipelines. They are running on the North Dakota Democratic-NonPartisan League Party ticket.

North Dakota is a huge state. Thursday night’s event alone meant I had to return home at about 1 am (and getting up again a couple of hours later to write). I want to point that out for one reason: These three candidates have kept this kind of schedule for months. The sacrifice of time, money, and just the stamina required, is remarkable.

Iron Eyes travels the state’s roadways pulling a cargo trailer with his campaign signs inside and on display outside. It’s probably his most visible campaign advertising. On Saturday he made certain to park his vehicle where the University of North Dakota was playing football. More eyeballs. His fundraising is authentic grass roots. He posted on Facebook: “16,227 people have contributed an average of $3.80 to our campaign. Send $3.80 today!”

Three. Dollars. Eighty. That’s it. Think of what that means in a world where the wealthy write checks and buy access to politicians from both parties.

Ruth Buffalo may be the hardest working candidate in the history of North Dakota. Every time you open Facebook you see her knocking on doors, making telephone calls, or supporting the other candidates running. When people look at her resume, her background, she is clearly prepared for this job. As Greg Stites, a former counsel for the North Dakota Insurance Commission, wrote in The Grand Forks Herald: “Ruth Buffalo is the best candidate for the job, with an academic background essentially built for the role of insurance commissioner. She holds a master’s degree in public health from North Dakota State University. Her depth of knowledge of the health and insurance needs of our state are unmatched by her opponents. And her accomplishments do not end there.”


And there is not only history, but irony, in Hunte-Beaubrun’s candidacy for the very agency that would regulate pipelines in North Dakota. She’s from Cannonball. This dispute is her community; her water. Imagine how history would be different if on a regulatory agency there was one person who could object to a routine pipeline drawing.

The rules would be different “because we would have a seat at that table,” Hunte-Beaubrun said. “We’d be able to aid in the process of creating those rules and regulations (and) we would be able to help everyone understand culturally where we’re coming from.”

There could have been a solution without a controversy. Win, win.

And that’s why representation is so critical. We have so many states, counties, cities, where decisions have been made without even hearing a Native voice, let alone considering what’s said. That’s not democracy. And will no longer work in a country where the demographics are changing rapidly.

Yes, it’s historic that three Native Americans are running for statewide offices. But what you know what’s cooler than that? The trend is only beginning. Even better think about what history  that could still be created. What if everyone in Indian Country, every ally, everyone who wants change, saw the merit of voting for a candidate who’s proud of contributions measured in pocket coins instead of the million-dollar access that we’ve come to accept as normal?


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

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com

Video interviews are here.

Chase Iron Eyes.

Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun.

Ruth Buffalo.







#StandingRock – Dakota pipeline schedule is one more story of injustice

Law enforcement is there to protect a pipeline schedule. Water protectors are there for water. And treaties. And justice. (Photo by Dallas Goldtooth via Facebook.)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

This morning politics is crowded out by injustice.

Every preposterous and painful image from North Dakota is another reminder of injustice: The massive police, military-style occupation of Standing Rock Treaty lands, the rush to protect the frantic construction schedule for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the brutal law enforcement march against people who are fighting for the simple idea that water is life.

I’m angry. How shall I say this without ranting? Tell stories.

Last January when a gang of gun-toting, Constitution mis-quoting, anti-government militia occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge the reaction from federal law enforcement was patience. Days went by. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (sounding very North Dakota-like) urged the federal government to crack down on “the radicals” before more arrived.

The lands involved were Paiute lands. Months ago, Jarvis Kennedy, a Burns Paiute Tribal Council member, asked: “What if it was a bunch of Natives who went in there and took it?”

We now know. And back in Oregon a jury of peers found the Bundy gang not guilty. 

Stories to tell. Injustice.

Since the beginning of the Standing Rock crisis there has been a call for President Obama to get involved. After all, there is a clear federal issue: The Oceti Sakowin Camp is on treaty land now claimed by the Army Corps of Engineers.

And, President Obama has a direct emotional connection with this tribe and this place. “I know that throughout history, the United States often didn’t give the nation-to-nation relationship the respect that it deserved.  So I promised when I ran to be a president who’d change that, a president who honors our sacred trust, and who respects your sovereignty, and upholds treaty obligations, and who works with you in a spirit of true partnership, in mutual respect, to give our children the future that they deserve.”

How could he have done that? Mutual respect could have, should have, started with a federal presence that made talking more important than acting. The action at Standing Rock is not over. But the federal government’s absence is not productive.

Indeed, if you listen to any politician, Democrat or Republican, you’ll hear them talk about respect for the treaties. Of course. The Constitution says treaties “shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

The word “shall” is like a commandment. But if that’s true then how does any treaty tribe have less land than what’s in the document? Legally, morally, a treaty trumps a congressional act or an executive order. A treaty claim to the land is not preposterous.

If the United States lived up to its own ideals there would be no stolen water, land, and dams on the Missouri River and the Army Corps of Engineers would have a long history of real negotiation with the tribes instead of a pretend consultation.

Then every tribe in the country has its own Standing Rock story. Often several stories. Vacant lumber mills that promised jobs but left behind toxic debris. Phosphate clean-up plans that were too expensive, so the waste is buried instead. Or three million gallons of heavy metal sludge released by the government into the Animas River where water flowed into Navajo farms and communities.

Stories to tell. Injustice.

There have been calls to get the presidential candidates involved. To visit. To see for themselves the love of the land, the water, and how this moment has brought Indian Country together.

Donald Trump wouldn’t be much help. He’s in the same boat as most of the politicians in North Dakota. They hope to profit from this pipeline project and a future where oil remains more important than water. “Trump’s financial disclosure forms show the Republican nominee has between $500,000 and $1m invested in Energy Transfer Partners, with a further $500,000 to $1m holding in Phillips 66, which will have a 25% stake in the Dakota Access project once completed, The Guardian reported.

And Hillary Clinton? We know from the WikiLeaks that she was inclined to approve Keystone XL pipeline but then flipped because there was so much attention on her email server. It was a way to change the story. Or so the campaign hoped.

Then election season is a terrible time to actually engage in public policy. Campaigns should be talking about issues and what they might do. But not when that decision is influenced by money, large voting blocs, and an intense election schedule. Eleven days out a campaign is more worried about winning the election than anything else. Period.

Now I’ll be polite: The statement by Hillary Clinton on Standing Rock was awful. The second I read it my heart dropped. I can see this being crafted at a table where folks weighed in from a variety of constituent groups and the writing was designed to not offend. “Secretary Clinton has been clear that she thinks all voices should be heard and all views considered in federal infrastructure projects. Now, all of the parties involved—including the federal government, the pipeline company and contractors, the state of North Dakota, and the tribes—need to find a path forward that serves the broadest public interest. As that happens, it’s important that on the ground in North Dakota, everyone respects demonstrators’ rights to protest peacefully, and workers’ rights to do their jobs safely.”

So in the spirit of reconciliation, Energy Transfer Partners put out its own statement, “all trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and removed from the land.”

There is a schedule to keep. Investors have been promised the pipeline will flow with oil soon. No matter what. Another story to tell. Injustice.

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

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com

#NativeVote16 – The Speaker campaigns in Montana, but will it help or hurt?

Democrats need to win 30 seats for the gavel to be returned to Nancy Pelosi. Speaker Paul Ryan travels to Montana Sunday to try and unify Republicans who are divided by their own presidential nominee. (CSPAN photo)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

A couple of days ago I wrote that “there is one tell that’s worth watching: Where are they?” This is better indicator than polls because it shows where the candidates themselves think they are vulnerable.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will campaign this Sunday with Rep. Ryan Zinke in Billings. According to KULR News, Zinke said “by bringing in Ryan and other notable Washington leaders, he is showing lawmakers in D.C. that Montana counts.”

Not to my way of thinking. It shows that the Republican leadership is worried about losing what should have been a safe seat.

But Ryan is a fascinating choice because he highlights the Republican conflict that is Donald Trump.

There is already a move on Capitol Hill to delay the election for the next Speaker (or Republican leadership) until December. giving both sides more time to campaign. According to Fox News the Freedom Caucus had a conference call to explore alternatives to Ryan. There is a Dump Ryan movement that’s as strong as ever.

Trump supporters are angry with Speaker Ryan because they say he’s exactly what’s wrong with the Republican Party.  Talk show host Sean Hannity called Ryan a “saboteur” who “needed to be called out and replaced.” And Rep. Tom Cole said Ryan should just“go fishing for awhile.”

And that’s not even the harshest attack. A long piece in Breitbart News says Ryan and Hillary represent Washington. A picture shows the speaker with an “I’m with her” Hillary background. The piece quotes Patrick Caddell saying the Republican Party Party is “at war with their voters. They are literally abandoning their own.” Ryan, he says, wants Clinton elected. “What you have is a Bush and Clinton dynasty,” Caddell said. “And the curtain has risen on the corruption that they’re all in the same game and that ultimately they’re allies. That’s what the American people have been revolting about. I fear that the establishment’s mind doesn’t even understand that that’s what the base is revolting against.” (The head of the Trump campaign, Stephen Bannon, is a former executive with Breitbart.)

This fracture is not what campaigns want to talk about. Even if voters do. So Sunday’s campaign event will be highly scripted (it’s ticketed and a donation is required). Ryan will campaign for a generic Republican agenda, sans Trump. Zinke won’t disavow Trump, but will praise Ryan, and he won’t be asked about that contradiction.

But there is another narrative to consider: Will women voters support Zinke if he sticks with Trump (even as he holds close to Ryan)?

A letter in the Billings Gazette reflects this very issue. “I was an early supporter of Ryan Zinke for Congress. I saw a proven leader, willing to commit his skills to fix a broken Congress. I thought he would begin to guide elected officials into a more effective decision-making process,” writes Connie Wardell.  “When I heard the tape revealing Trump’s explicit thoughts about women and bragging of his ability to rape women and get away with it, I expected Zinke to be one of the first to renounce his endorsement of Trump. When he refused, I realized that I was wrong in my first impressions of Zinke.”

Ryan’s answer has been to avoid Trump and campaign for Republicans. But Zinke still supports Trump, but, as he told Montana’s Daily Interlake, “You can’t defend Trump. He’s un-defendable … not that that makes Hillary [Clinton] a better candidate.”

A recent poll for Lee Newspapers by Mason-Dixon polling shows that women in Montana already favor Clinton. “Among women voters polled, 44 percent said they would cast their ballot for Clinton and 39 percent for Trump. That’s only a five-point difference, although the margin of error could mean the actual figure is a little higher and therefore more in line with national polls – or even lower and therefore more unusual by comparison.” (The pollster said they didn’t think that would translate down ballot. But they had little evidence.)

But this poll was done a couple of weeks ago and Trump’s gender deficit is getting worse. As a piece in FiveThirtyEight said: “We could be looking at the largest gender gap in a presidential election since at least 1952: Men are favoring the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, in typical numbers, but a historically overwhelming share of women say they will vote for the Democrat, Hillary Clinton.”

And in early voting, so far, women are voting in greater numbers than in 2012. In Georgia, North Carolina, and Louisiana, 55.8 percent of the returned ballots are from female voters. (The national average was 53 percent four years ago.)

Ryan and Zinke won’t be talking about that, of course. The mission will be to show a unified Republican Party. As if.

And Denise Juneau need not say a word.

Twelve days to go.

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

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com





#NativeVote16 – Still loving Obamacare, elders, and new round of endorsements

Joe Pakootas speaks to voters in Walla Walla, Washington. (Photo via Facebook)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

Thirteen days and counting. And the election issue once again is the Affordable Care Act.

A report by the Department of Health and Human Services details the rising costs for individual policies. So after two years of moderate premium increases (2% for 2015 and 7.5% for 2016) premiums are going up sharply in 2017. The is ideal for Republicans because the say this highlights why the law won’t work. So it’s an election issue. Again.

But here’s the thing. Yes, this is a problem. It needs to be fixed. But most people are not impacted, especially in Indian Country. (The problem here is that not enough young people are buying that insurance. There are many solutions to that specific issue.)

Let me explain.

The increase in premiums is only for people who buy their plans through healthcare.gov. Most people who do that get a tax subsidy as part of the deal. And most American Indians and Alaska Natives would be eligible for a subsidy in any case.

Most Americans, and most in Indian Country, do not buy individual plans. Most of us get health insurance through work.

Still other Native Americans benefit from the single greatest success of the Affordable Care Act, the expansion of Medicaid.

If you look at the big picture: More people are covered by health insurance than ever before. Most of the law is working, well, brilliantly.

But Republicans will be campaigning on a repeal and replace pledge. Except there is not now, nor has there ever been, consensus from the Right about what a replacement would look like. There is nothing behind the curtain.

One more thing: Remember that any repeal of the Affordable Care Act is also a repeal of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

Fear not. This election should bury the very notion of repeal. Perhaps then Congress will actually tinker with the law (like it does with all legislation) to make it work better. Because if you look at the numbers – all of the numbers – then the Affordable Care Act remains a success story.


Out on the campaign trail last night, Joe Pakootas had a huge crowd in Walla Walla. He wrote on Facebook: “I am the embodiment of the American dream: a minority that came out of poverty, through foster care, into a minimum wage job, turned CEO and now Congressional Candidate. The incredible support I was shown tonight, whether through each handshake, Pakootas sticker or shirt that was worn, or the uproar of applause when I took my seat, is humbling and encouraging. I never thought I would make it here, but it’s all for the people that I’m fighting. I will stay true to that when I’m in Congress.”

More endorsements.

Chase Iron Eyes was endorsed by the Alliance for Retired Americans, a union-based advocacy group. “Could it be due to the fact that I respect my elders, that I won’t let Washington privatize social security unlike my opponent, or is it that I will lift the tax cap so that those making over $125,000 per year pay the same taxes as those making under that amount already pay,” Iron Eyes wrote on Facebook. “We need you to stand for those who invested their whole working lives laying into social security and are not seeking ‘entitlements’ as politicians say.”

Or not an endorsement. In Fargo, the Forum newspaper endorsed Rep. Kevin Cramer for re-election. The paper says he “has no serious competition. Democrat Chase Iron Eyes is running a shoestring campaign with virtually no help from his party.”

However the Forum makes an eloquent case against Cramer. “If he has a blind spot in this election cycle, it’s his near-worship of presidential candidate Donald Trump. Unlike other prominent state Republicans, who have been muted in their squishy support for Trump, Cramer is positively giddy about the New York billionaire, often acting like a cow-eye high school cheerleader who is smitten by the thuggish captain of the football team. Cramer has been too willing to set aside his oft-stated values of family, faith and decency for a heady ride on the Trump party bus.

In Minnesota, Donna Bergstrom, a Red Lake tribal member, was endorsed by the Duluth News Tribune as a “clear choice.” She is a retired Lt. Col. in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. The paper says Bergstrom, a Republican, has “a wealth of research and knowledge, strong positions, even stronger leadership experience, and an impressive resume.”

“I’m not a politician but a common citizen who is concerned over the direction of the state just like you,” she said at the paper’s candidate forum.

And that direction will be settled in 13 days.

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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#NativeVote16 – Two weeks to win, time to distort, and far more visibility

Rep. Paulette Jordan meets with a Northern Idaho constituent. (Facebook photo)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

We’re two weeks away from an election and most of us have the same question: Who’s winning? We look at the latest polls, check our favorite web sites often, and try to read between the lines.

But there is one tell that’s worth watching: Where are they? The candidate location shows where the candidates need to be to round up that last important tranche of votes. Are they looking for a win, campaigning for a mandate, or resigned to a loss? Hmm. So Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both in Florida. Clinton wins there and it’s over while Trump needs Florida, period.

Speaking of favorite web sites, here are a few. Travel tracker maps where the candidates are that day. And, for the latest polls, Real Clear Politics. The most useful number is the average of polls because it’s a good way to increase the size of the pool and add a perspective over time. The current average shows Clinton with support at 48.3 percent, Trump at 43.2 percent. (Also reporting the “live betting odds of 84 percent for Clinton, 16 percent for Trump.) Other places to peek: FiveThirtyEight, the Upshot, Daily Kos, The Fix, and Talking Points Memo.

A story in Talking Points Memo is particularly worth watching. “It is only one poll, as they say,” writes Josh Marshall. “But this ABC poll may be a big deal. See this not as something that is happening but a sign of a possible trend which, if backed up by other polls over the next two weeks, could be the story of the 2016 election.” He cites an ABC that shows: “The share of registered Republicans who are likely to vote is down 7 points since mid-October.”

That would be huge.

Of course no election is a sure thing. Trump has been saying this will be a Brexit election, one where the anger of British voters about the European Union did not show in polls. But there are differences. However, as The Guardian notes, America’s voting system makes this less likely. “A simple majority of the national popular vote was enough to rewrite Britain’s relationship with Europe, but US presidents are required to win a majority of electoral college votes, which can be decisively achieved with a series of wins at the state level. In 1984, for example, Ronald Reagan secured 97.6% of the electoral college votes with 58.8% of the popular vote, because Walter Mondale lost every state except Minnesota.”

And Democrats have the edge (even before Trump) in the Electoral College because so many large states, such as California or New York, are not competitive.

One challenge for any candidate is the last minute pitch by opponents who distort the record. A Facebook campaign is attacking Idaho’s Rep. Paulette Jordan as anti-Second Amendment. Her sins? She didn’t fill out a survey from a gun-rights organization and she voted against a “constitutional carry” bill that would have ended restrictions on concealed weapons. But, and this ought to be huge, she voted for a measure that did just that. Only in cooperation with the local sheriff. That bill became law and Jordan was one of only two Democrats to vote yes.

But the very idea that the Idaho legislature is anti-gun? Right. But a promotion from AmmoLand for Jordan’s opponent, Carl Berglund, says he has answered the “survey with 100% pro-2nd Amendment answers and has long been a proponent of constitutional carry.”

On Facebook, Jordan said “representing the people means listening to the people, which is why I always maintain an open door policy for all the great folks in our district.” She and her team have been knocking on thousands of doors hearing what people are saying.

Two weeks to go and it’s the end of newspaper endorsement season.

Laurel Deegan-Fricke, who’s running for the state Senate in North Carolina, earned an endorsement from the Raleigh News and Observer. This is good. The paper said it could endorse the incumbent but he “has drawn an exceptionally appealing candidate in Democrat Laurel Deegan Fricke. A native of North Dakota and the daughter of a Native American mother, Deegan-Fricke will make fairness in taxation and budgeting a priority. We offer her our endorsement. Deegan-Fricke, who has lived in Wake County for 14 years, is founder and CEO of the National Coalition of Native American College Placement Services.”

And Denise Juneau picked up another newspaper endorsement. The Montana Standard said: “Juneau is aiming for a place in history. She is trying to become the first woman Congressman from Montana since Jeannette Rankin, and the first Native American woman ever to claim a seat in the U.S. Capitol. Usually, as a freshman congressman, very probably with the minority party, she would be utterly invisible. But her pioneer status would give Juneau far more visibility than most. We believe she has earned that chance, and that she would make Montanans proud with her service.”

Far more visibility. That’s exactly what’s needed across Indian Country.

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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#NativeVote16 – Fifteen days. One-sided radio, Arizona 1st & who’s a Montanan?

Montana congressional candidate Denise Juneau. (Trahant photo)

Trahant Reports

Two weeks and a day to go and the crazy season has begun. North Dakota’s Chase Iron Eyes was a guest on a right wing radio program where he said he faced a series of loaded, baited questions. Such as: “do you believe in abortion, even after new science developments? Should people be able to just choose which bathrooms to use?”

No worries. Iron Eyes said he ain’t scared of them, ain’t scared to go toe to toe with any of them in a debate, you guys are done.”

And the proof of that? Iron Eyes said Republican Kevin Cramer “won’t even debate me in front of people. What is that?”

Arizona First Congressional District is supposed to be one of the Republican’s best opportunities. It’s a rural district, but it’s also the most Native American of any district in the country. It’s represented by Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick who’s now running for the Senate against John McCain. And, Mitt Romney picked up more votes from that district than Barack Obama.

But it’s time to scratch Arizona First from the competitive list. A poll commissioned by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee shows Democrat Tom O’Halleran with a ten-point lead over his opponent, Republican Paul Babeu.

Nearly a quarter of Arizonans have already voted.

Rep. Ryan Zinke, who’s being challenged by State Supt. of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, is tired of people questioning his residency saying he spends more time in Southern California. A story in the Helena Independent Record says Zinke’s Second Street house is a bed and breakfast. Zinke says the plan was always for the family to live upstairs.

But here is the good part: Zinke says “he can go back and forth” with Juneau, too. “Is it 54 generations?” Zinke told the newspaper. “Born in Oakland. I don’t think that counts as 54 generations. And why 54 or 52 or 51? I haven’t gone there because quite frankly I think Montana and America are tired of the slams over things that don’t matter.”

A debate over 54, 52 or 51. This is where he wants to go? Seriously? SMH. I’ll stick with this number: Fifteen days.– Mark Trahant




Trahant Reports now on your iPhone


Trahant Reports

There is always a lot of experimenting going on in this new world of media. I recently heard that something like 80 percent of the Washington Post’s distribution is through outside channels.

That’s even more true for Trahant Reports. My material is used by other publications, and on good days, is posted and reposted across social media.

My goal is to have lots of readers (it’s why we do this, right?) and to one day be sustainable.

So I experiment.

A couple of years ago I tried an app. It’s still there, but frankly, not many people find my content.

Today a new experiment begins. My content is now found through Apple News. If you have an iPhone, open the news app, search for Trahant Reports and subscribe. That’s it. Then you’ll have every new post as soon as it’s up.

Let me know what you think. Thanks! — Mark Trahant


#NativeVote16 – Sixteen days. Every vote, every phone call adds possibility

Chase Iron Eyes and his campaign signs. (Photo via Facebook.)


Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

This is it: Sixteen days until this election is over. And, as I have been reporting, this is such a significant election for Indian Country with both the quantity and the quality of Native Americans who are running for office.

In Washington’s Fifth Congressional District, the campaign for Joe Pakootas sent an urgent email. “This race is very close,” said the subject line. “Will you help flip this district?”

“At this point, it’s all hands on deck. We need volunteers and that means you. Recent polling is showing that this race is not only very close – it’s entirely winnable! We just need to turn out people to vote, and that’s where you come in. Our staff is working extremely hard 7 days a week, but we need your help. Joe is asking you to take part in this revolution,” the email said. Of course the Pakootas campaign asked for money, that’s critical right now. But it also asked for volunteers to make phone calls and to wave signs on busy intersections.  “The timing is right, the political climate is right, and the candidate is absolutely qualified and ready to serve. Joe Pakootas has unprecedented support from Democrats, independents, and Republicans. There will never be a better time than now. ” Pakootas is Colville  and a former chairman of the tribe.

Montana’s Denise Juneau  is getting a boost. According to the Daily Kos (basing its reporting on a subscription-only post from Politico) says the House Majority PAC is investing $451,000 on TV ads on behalf of Juneau “signaling they think she has a shot against GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke. While Montana is a red state, Juneau’s proven to be a strong fundraiser, and her own polling from earlier this month found Zinke ahead just 45-42. Of course, Zinke’s internals had him ahead by a much wider 49-38 margin, but evidently, HMP either believes Juneau’s numbers are closer to the mark—or Donald Trump’s deterioration has reached into Big Sky Country in the two weeks since those campaign polls (conducted before the Access Hollywood tapes came out) were made public.” Juneau is a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation and grew up in the Blackfeet Nation.

In Oklahoma, Rep. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, says Donald Trump could “damage” the career of House Speaker Paul Ryan. He told the Tulsa World that now might be a good time for Ryan “to go fishing for awhile.” Cole said “as his friend, it might be best for him to wrap up business and think about his future. Paul will have a big decision to make.”

Of course the Republican caucus was divided before Donald Trump. But his candidacy has made those divisions more visible and there will be lots of finger pointing (and retribution) after the election. Basically folks will be trying to answer the question, “why did we lose?” But like four years ago when the answer comes back with reasonable conclusions (such as a more diverse Republican party something suggested after the 2012 loss) the True Believers will ignore the results.

In South Dakota there is a last minute pitch to move the early voting location in Oglala Lakota County to make it easier for people to vote. The current location is several miles out of town and near a construction site.

Henry Red Cloud, Oglala Sioux, and a candidate for Public Utilities Commission, told KSFY that this violates the people’s right to vote. “When people are unable to exercise that right, or feel uncomfortable exercising that right because they fear for their safety at their polling location, our democracy is diminished,” Red Cloud said.

North Dakota’s Chase Iron Eyes posted a call to vote on Facebook. “As an activist I never cared about voting. I can see now how apathy about the political process allows establishment paid for politicians to stay in power like a revolving door,” he wrote.  “We have forgotten our roots, outside money is running the show here and yet we don’t vote. I’m not running as a Native candidate I’m running because I am a true human being, a leader, a lawyer, a father, a husband a critical thinker who is not afraid to take on these unqualified politicians who have never known real leadership in their lives. They don’t know sacrifice. We need an upset. We need you to vote.”

There is one other thing I want to mention about Iron Eyes. There has been a lot of talk about rising fears from farms and neighbors who live near the camps at Standing Rock. Well at one of those ranches near the Dakota Access Pipeline project, I saw several Iron Eyes for Congress signs. Could that be a sign of an upset?

Sixteen days. Every vote, every phone call adds possibility.

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

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com




How far will North Dakota go? The illogical conclusion is too terrible to think about #StandingRock


The Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock. (Trahant photo)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

A line of trucks and commercial vehicles on North Dakota’s Highway 6 Saturday was a speeding train. One vehicle after another. Traveling too fast and too close. Then, still on track, the entire train turned left and began racing down a rural dirt road.

It was clear why: This is where the Dakota Access Pipeline is being constructed. Fresh dirt marks where the pipeline has been and where it’s supposed to go. Construction is on a speedy timetable. As the company has testified in court it wants the 1,170 mile, $3.8 billion project up and running by January 1, 2017.

Yet the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and several hundred people camped near by are determined to slow down that train, protect the waters of the Missouri River, and ultimately, help the country begin the most important conversation of this era about energy, climate and survival. (Previous: From Paris to Standing Rock, it’s about the climate choices ahead.)
So the machinery of the state of North Dakota has been engaged to stay on schedule. To be clear: North Dakota is acting as the trustee for the company, using what it considers the powers of state, to make this project so.

How far will North Dakota go?

Look at where it has been. The state has been an ally instead of a referee. Helping to craft a regulatory approach that avoided regulation. There is this crazy notion that the company did everything it was supposed to do so leave them alone. Yah. Because the plan was to avoid pesky regulation. It’s so much more efficient to be governed by official winks instead of an Environmental Impact Statement.

Even now the Dakota Access Pipeline figures the state (with allies in DC) will give in and sign the final paperwork. As the Energy Transfer Partners attorney told the court: “The status quo is that we’re in the middle of building a pipeline.” So, according to Oil and Gas 360, “the next step will be for ETP to acquire easements to drill the pipeline under Lake Oahe. In the most probable scenario, the Corps will grant permits while District Court litigation will continue. ETP would ‘likely get notice on easement status by the end of October and would take 60 days to drill under the lake with a full crew and no major disruptions.'”

No worries. The state’s machinery is supposed to make it so.

How far will North Dakota go?

They’ve already tried intimidation, humiliation, and the number of arrests are increasing. Pick on protectors, elders, journalists, famous people, anyone who could make the state appear potent. The latest tactic is to toss around the word “riot” as if saying it often enough will change its definition. “Authorities arrest 83 protesters during a riot Saturday,” Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier posted on Facebook. “Today’s situation clearly illustrates what we have been saying for weeks, that this protest is not peaceful or lawful. It was obvious to our officers who responded that the protesters engaged in escalated unlawful tactics and behavior during this event. This protest was intentionally coordinated and planned by agitators.”

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier posted this picture on Facebook as evidence of a “riot.”

What’s extraordinary about that statement is the sheriff’s own pictures show a peaceful protest. As Mel Brooks once wrote in Young Frankenstein: “A riot is an ugly thing.” This was not.

But the key phrase in the sherrif’s words is fuel for the state’s machinery, the words “… or lawful.” That is the important phrase because the state would like a protest that lets the status quo continue building a pipeline. The idea of civil disobedience is that there are unjust laws (or in this case, rigged laws) and there are people willing go to jail to highlight that injustice. The state lost its moral claim when it moved the pipeline route away from its own capital city to near the Standing Rock Nation.

Again, the question is, how far will North Dakota go?

Is the state ready to arrest hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands? And then what? The illogical conclusion to that question is too terrible to think about.

Yesterday a call went out from the camps for more people. People who, as Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said, are willing to get arrested. People who will interrupt their lives so that this pipeline will go no further. It’s a call to a higher law than the one that’s codified by North Dakota. And for every water protector arrested, there will always be someone else ready to be next.

** Update **

Goldtooth reported Sunday on Facebook that a new camp is going up. “First tipi is up. Directly on the proposed path of the pipeline. We are directly between the pipeline and water now.” That will press the issue.
How far will North Dakota go? The military-style law enforcement base at Fort Rice sends its message: Whatever it takes. Status quo must have its a pipeline. That’s frightening.
Except. There is an antidote to those fears. It’s found among the people at the Standing Rock camps who continue to use prayer as their status quo.
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
Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com