Throughout most of her political career, Elizabeth Warren claimed a Native American pedigree. For years before that, she cultivated a public image under the guise of a Delaware Cherokee Indian. That is, until President Trump drew national attention to the Rachel Dolezal of the American Indian people.
As an American Indian woman, I will always feel grateful that President Trump made a distinct point of calling out Warren for her lies. We have worked far too hard and suffered far too much for public recognition to accept the insults and feigned empathy of Democratic candidates who assume they can simply collect a minority demographic like a scalp. Warren’s lies are atrocious, but not a far cry from the precedent set by the Democratic Party on American Indian issues.
Joe Biden’s campaign, which Warren endorsed in May, continues to harm the American Indian community. After Vice President of the Navajo Nation, Myron Lizer, spoke on behalf of the president during the Republican National Convention, the Biden campaign called Lizer’s speech “a disgraceful insult.” The true insult is the Biden campaign’s assumption that it deserves automatic allegiance from a racial group, and that those of us who choose to think differently deserve condemnation from a white man’s campaign.
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Despite Biden’s perceived entitlement to the Native vote, he has little in the way of an actual record on tribal policy. His running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, even worked against the interests of tribes on several occasions as Attorney General of California, denying claims to place Native homelands into trust.
The Biden campaign also errs in its failure to acknowledge the very legitimate reasons many American Indians may have for supporting President Trump. Our communities ache from issues such as unemployment, crime, and the rates at which Indigenous women and girls go missing or murdered. The Obama-Biden administration did so little to combat these significant problems that it is difficult to imagine a great shift in the event of a Biden-Harris administration.
Under the Obama-Biden administration, the Native community experienced the highest unemployment ever in 2010 — 15.1 percent. Under the Trump administration, conversely, the Native American unemployment rate fell to its lowest level ever, 6.6 percent.
The Trump administration has also championed the fight for Indigenous women and girls, a group that experiences 10 times the national risk of going missing or murdered. I was overjoyed to learn of the establishment of Operation Lady Justice in 2019, which brought national attention to one of Indian country’s greatest concerns. The executive order, signed by President Trump, established a task force that consults with tribal leaders, centralizes informational resources, and has so far reopened six cold cases.
The impact of Operation Lady Justice helped to generate bipartisan support for Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act, signed into law by President Trump in 2020. The acts establish law enforcement protocols for addressing violence against Indigenous women and girls, and establish liaisons between the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice to further this effort.
President Trump also appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court in 2017. Prior to his nomination, Gorsuch built a commendable tribal policy record and consistently worked to uphold tribal sovereignty as a federal judge. This summer, I was pleased to see that Justice Gorsuch once again championed tribal sovereignty in the landmark case McGirt v. Oklahoma, which reestablished much of Eastern Oklahoma as Indian land.
During President Trump’s first term, Native American unemployment rates have fallen dramatically, his administration has developed plans for improving the healthcare infrastructure, our communities are becoming safer, and our cultures are supported. Just this past year, the President worked with the Finnish government to repatriate stolen cultural artifacts to the Mesa Verde Region.
President Trump has never claimed to understand all of the difficulties and suffering my people have overcome and continue to work through. In fact, he hasn’t even promised my people very much at all. Yet, his administration has delivered far more than I could have hoped for. I am grateful for the support, and I hope Donald Trump is able to continue his work in Indian Country during a second term.
This year, I will be voting for the only candidate who has shown himself to be dedicated to combating the greatest issues faced by my people today. I will vote for my safety, my job opportunities, and the preservation of my tribe’s sovereignty — not for a party that has unforgivably mocked and continues to disrespect my people.
This piece was written by Carolina Wasinger on October 29, 2020. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.
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