Whether individually or collectively, being ready, willing and able to atone for past transgressions and make amends is no easy task, but a necessary step if radical change is to materialize. One of the main areas where the United States must make amends to address past transgressions is our relationship with Native Americans. 

This continent was home to Native Americans for thousands of years prior to European explorers arriving onshore to “discover” it. The indigenous peoples of North America were here first, living on this land, toiling the soil and imparting wisdom from one generation to the next long before any white interlopers came on the scene. Our best population estimates indicate that in 1492, there were as many as 18 million indigenous people living in the region now known as the United States. In contrast, as a consequence of disease and war, by 1890 there were only approximately 250,000 Native people left. 18 million, reduced to 250,000 people. This is utterly devastating and represents the worst that humanity has to offer. Native Americans suffered a physical as well as cultural genocide, with the painful effects still felt to this day. 

The U.S. government has formed numerous treaties with Native tribes over the years, yet they have been perpetually broken. These broken promises have led to poverty and inequity among the more than five million Native Americans living in the U.S. today. Native American reservations are hampered by higher poverty rates, along with inadequate health care services, low employment, substandard housing, below-national-average education levels and insufficient economic infrastructure. And after the 2018 midterms in North Dakota, we can add attempts at voter suppression to this unfortunate list. 

Our generation must now step up to try to atone and make amends for the cumulative offenses of U.S. policy. We need to work on overturning past wrongs and finding remedies for the issues caused by these previous misdeeds. 

After all, according to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, “The federal government should provide adequate funding for the essentials of life, not as a gift or as charity, but as the fulfillment of commitments made at the founding and throughout the expansion of this nation.”

If elected, I will support:

  • Putting an end to construction of the Keystone and Bakkan pipelines, recognizing Native tribes’ sovereignty over their territory.
  • Giving back dominant control of the Black Hills of South Dakota to the Sioux (Lakota/Dakota/Nakota) Nation. The Black Hills, deemed sacred to those nations, were guaranteed by treaty in 1868 and should be returned as promised.
  • Passage of the Savanna Act, a bill that is long-overdue. This piece of legislation is named after Savanna Greywind, a pregnant 22-year-old member of the Spirit Lake Nation who was viciously murdered in 2017. Native and indigenous women have been abducted and murdered at frighteningly high rates for far too long, with law enforcement failing to do much about it. The Savanna Act will mandate that the U.S. begin compiling and publishing statistics connected to the disappearance or murder of Native American women. Additionally, it would enhance access to the U.S. federal crime information databases for sovereign tribal governments and their tribal law enforcement agencies, while providing other resources needed to make a difference in terms of this appalling issue.
  • Full enactment of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which would assist with the problems related to Savanna’s Act and also mirror the unsettling levels of unaddressed abuse in some Native American communities.
  • Advancement of Native lands’ justice systems; mainly due to chronic underfunding, these systems currently make it onerous to enforce prosecution of non-natives accused of major crimes.
  • Protection of tribal sovereignty. Tribal nations have significant needs for education, infrastructure and economic development that are acutely underfunded and under-resourced. 
  • Efforts by tribal nations to rehabilitate their heritage and communities. 
  • Protection of Native American religious freedoms. 
  • Reconsidering treaties that have limited Native Tribes’ capability to make judgements about their own lands. Many of these choices are economic and represent decisions that should be made only by Native nations themselves.
  • Continuing tribal nation summits held annually in Washington, DC, with the full backing of important cabinet agencies. The goals would include discussing and getting feedback on concerns relating to planned federal activities which may impact tribal nations.
  • Rescinding the Medals of Honor given for Valor in Battle to the soldiers who decimated Native Americans at Wounded Knee.

Things didn’t have to be this way. Not only for Native Americans but for white Europeans as well, it must be said that one of the most significant tragedies of American history is that we denied ourselves the exceptional cultural and intangible possibilities of what a partnership could have been. If a true partnership blueprint instead of the dominator paradigm had been selected hundreds of years ago, our cultures would both be flourishing today. With an increased historical understanding and gradual cultural awakening, our country is now prepared to mend old wounds and set the stage for a brighter future. I will work tirelessly to make this a reality and together we can write a new chapter of our American story.