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 BidenScaramucci attends charity event featuring Biden in the Hamptons Klobuchar knocks Trump: 'This negotiating by tweet hasn't been working' Rendell: Biden 'baked in' as Democratic nominee MORE and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSanders doubles down on 'Medicare For All' defense: 'We have not changed one word' Obama reveals his summer playlist Democratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows 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 SandersTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy Sanders doubles down on 'Medicare For All' defense: 'We have not changed one word' Sanders, Warren back major shift to fight drug overdoses MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy Sanders, Warren back major shift to fight drug overdoses Rendell: Biden 'baked in' as Democratic nominee 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 TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative 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 KlobucharKlobuchar knocks Trump: 'This negotiating by tweet hasn't been working' Sunday shows preview: Trump ratchets up trade war with China Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates MORE (D-Minn.), author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonMarianne Williamson on Trump: We have a little bit of a 'mad King George' in charge Democratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE, Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockDemocratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows The Hill's 12:30 Report: Stocks sink as Trump fights with Fed, China The Hill's Morning Report: How will Trump be received at G-7? MORE (D), former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneySanders doubles down on 'Medicare For All' defense: 'We have not changed one word' Democratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows The Hill's 12:30 Report: Stocks sink as Trump fights with Fed, China MORE (D-Md.), New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioSanders, Warren back major shift to fight drug overdoses Democratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows If the Democratic debates were pro wrestling, de Blasio is comic relief MORE (D) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro are slated to attend. 

Organizers said Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardDemocratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates 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 ButtigiegSunday shows preview: Trump ratchets up trade war with China Democratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates MORE's team cited scheduling conflicts, while Rep. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur MoultonDemocratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows If the Democratic debates were pro wrestling, de Blasio is comic relief Stocks close with steep losses as Trump, China escalate trade war 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) TesterNative American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment House Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 Budget deal sparks scramble to prevent shutdown 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 CantwellWill Congress act to stop robocalls? Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment Hillicon Valley: Trump reportedly weighing executive action on alleged tech bias | WH to convene summit on online extremism | Federal agencies banned from buying Huawei equipment | Lawmakers jump start privacy talks MORE ... that can be said about [former Minnesota Sen.] Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenFormer GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment Reid says he wishes Franken would run for Senate again 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.