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 BidenNew York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Graham invites Giuliani to testify about recent Ukraine trip Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications MORE and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBooker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Sanders revokes congressional endorsement for Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 Democrats trading jabs ahead of Los Angeles debate 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 'outraged' after MLB threatens to cut ties with minor league teams Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump executive order aimed at combating anti-Semitism stirs up controversy Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute 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 TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' 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 KlobucharBooker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial MORE (D-Minn.), author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — GOP, Democrats square off at final impeachment hearing Marianne Williamson roasted for claim Trump pardoned Charles Manson Democrats take in lobbying industry cash despite pledges MORE, Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockKamala Harris dropped out, but let's keep her mental health plan alive The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats worry about diversity on next debate stage The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached MORE (D), former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result The great AI debate: What candidates are (finally) saying about artificial intelligence Delaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events MORE (D-Md.), New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioNYPD creates special unit for far-right and neo-Nazi threats Mayor accuses de Blasio of dumping New York's homeless in Newark Conservatives must absolutely talk politics at the Thanksgiving table MORE (D) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro are slated to attend. 

Organizers said Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardDemocrats set early state primary debates for 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Gabbard news items generating more social interactions than other 2020 Democrats: study 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 ButtigiegBooker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Buttigieg rolls out endorsements from South Bend officials Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute MORE's team cited scheduling conflicts, while Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonOvernight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons Pentagon leaders: Trump clemencies won't affect military order and discipline Deval Patrick beefs up campaign staff 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) TesterTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Krystal Ball: Is this how Bernie Sanders will break the establishment? GOP braces for Democratic spending onslaught in battle for Senate 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 CantwellLet's enact a privacy law that advances economic justice There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Hillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware MORE ... that can be said about [former Minnesota Sen.] Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenLankford to be named next Senate Ethics chairman The job no GOP senator wants: 'I'd rather have a root canal' Take Trump literally and seriously in Minnesota 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.