Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment

Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment

Native American advocates are raising concerns over some of the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders' commitment to their issues amid absences at a conference in Iowa next week.

Organizers of the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum told The Hill that a number of top candidates, including former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump knocks Romney as 'Democrat secret asset' in new video Giuliani asked State Dept. to grant visa for ex-Ukraine official at center of Biden allegations: report Perry won't comply with subpoena in impeachment inquiry MORE and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris campaign releases web video highlighting opposition to death penalty Sanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally Biden seeks to fundraise off fact he's running out of money MORE (D-Calif.), will not be attending the annual forum in Sioux City.

The forum will take place on Monday and Tuesday after the Iowa State Fair and one day before a number of candidates, including Biden, attend the Iowa Federation of Labor convention.

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While a number of White House hopefuls, including Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally On The Money: Supreme Court takes up challenge to CFPB | Warren's surge brings scrutiny to wealth tax | Senators eye curbs on Trump emergency powers Biden seeks to fundraise off fact he's running out of money MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship Sanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally On The Money: Supreme Court takes up challenge to CFPB | Warren's surge brings scrutiny to wealth tax | Senators eye curbs on Trump emergency powers MORE (D-Mass.), are slated to attend the forum, the absence of the others has raised concerns. 

The issues in question include rescinding Medals of Honor given to American troops who were responsible for the massacre of hundreds of women and children at Wounded Knee Creek more than a hundred years ago, in addition to the growing number of Native American women who are murdered or go missing each year. 

“We want to really drive home why this is so important,” Tom Rodgers, the acting president of the Global Indigenous Council and the whistleblower behind the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal in 2006, told The Hill.

Rodgers went on to say that not attending the event could be a missed opportunity for the candidates in confronting President TrumpDonald John TrumpFlorida GOP lawmaker says he's 'thinking' about impeachment Democrats introduce 'THUG Act' to block funding for G-7 at Trump resort Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS MORE on his "America first" policies. 

"If we're really going to have a discussion about 'America first,' how can you ignore the first Americans?" 

While reparations for descendants of African slaves has been a topic of conversation on Capitol Hill and the campaign trail, Rodgers said that compensation and reparations for Native Americans should also be discussed. 

"We would never, ever want to step on the toes of our African American brothers and sisters, but when you look at the landscape of this country — historical, cultural, geographical — the land was stolen with little or no compensation at all."

"Therefore, this whole examination of what is owed or what is due, don't you think for a moment, perhaps half a moment that there should be a discussion?" asked Rodgers.

In addition to Sanders and Warren, Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBiden struggles to reverse fall Krystal Ball rips media for going 'all-in' on Buttigieg's debate performance The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges MORE (D-Minn.), author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges 'We lost a giant': 2020 Democrats mourn the death of Elijah Cummings Williamson slams DNC, Tuesday's debate: 'This would all be funny if it weren't so dangerous' MORE, Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockSuper PAC seeks to spend more than million supporting Yang The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges Private flight spending soars in Democratic presidential race MORE (D), former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges Warren's surge brings new scrutiny to signature wealth tax 'We lost a giant': 2020 Democrats mourn the death of Elijah Cummings MORE (D-Md.), New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioNew York City lawmakers vote to close Rikers Island jail by 2026 2020 Presidential Candidates Cooperate, or else: New York threatens fines to force people to help block immigration enforcement MORE (D) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro are slated to attend. 

Organizers said Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardGabbard hits back at 'queen of warmongers' Clinton Super PAC seeks to spend more than million supporting Yang Clinton suggests Russia grooming Gabbard to run as third-party 2020 candidate MORE (D-Hawaii) would have attended if she did not have to report for active duty in Indonesia with the Hawaiian Army National Guard.

The Hill has reached out to the campaigns of candidates who are not scheduled to attend the forum. Biden's campaign and Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally Biden seeks to fundraise off fact he's running out of money Biden struggles to reverse fall MORE's team cited scheduling conflicts, while Rep. Seth MoultonSeth Moulton2020 Presidential Candidates Rep. Joe Kennedy has history on his side in Senate bid Mass shootings have hit 158 House districts so far this year MORE's campaign said the Massachusetts congressman would be in South Carolina during the forum. 

The Native American vote could prove to be an important demographic for Democrats in states crucial in the upcoming Senate and presidential races. 

"Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterBennet reintroduces bill to ban lawmakers from becoming lobbyists Schumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever Red-state Democrats worry impeachment may spin out of control MORE [of Montana] is not a United States senator without Native Americans," Rodgers said, naming several other Democratic politicians: "That can be said about [Washington Sen.] Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellOvernight Energy: Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest| Democrats inch closer to issuing subpoenas for Interior, EPA records| Trump's plan to boost ethanol miffs corn groups and the fossil fuel industry Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservative politicians, pundits MORE ... that can be said about [former Minnesota Sen.] Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenTake Trump literally and seriously in Minnesota Ninth woman accuses Al Franken of inappropriate contact Al Franken to host SiriusXM radio show MORE, that can be said about [former South Dakota Sen.] Tom Daschle."

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Polling conducted by Four Directions found that voting-age Native American populations are increasing in states such as Arizona, Wisconsin and North Carolina, which are high-priority for Democrats in 2020. 

Voting-aged Native Americans in North Carolina are projected to top 181,000 in 2020, while Arizona is expected to have more than 324,000 Native Americans 18 or older. 

"You have the control of the United States Senate in play now," Rodgers said.