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 BidenJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisTrump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick MSNBC Climate Change Forum draws 1.3M viewers in 8 pm timeslot Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats 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 to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest Krystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans 2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest Pelosi wants to change law to allow a sitting president to be indicted 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 TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest 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 KlobucharMSNBC Climate Change Forum draws 1.3M viewers in 8 pm timeslot The two most important mental health reforms the Trump administration should consider Sanders searches for answers amid Warren steamroller MORE (D-Minn.), author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne Williamson2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum Overnight Energy: Trump officials formally revoke California emissions waiver | EPA's Wheeler dodges questions about targeting San Francisco over homelessness | 2020 Dems duke it out at second climate forum Williamson: Climate change result of an 'amoral' economic system MORE, Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockIowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats The Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC New poll finds Biden, Warren in virtual tie in Iowa MORE (D), former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin Delaney2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum The Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC Analysis: 2020 digital spending vastly outpaces TV ads MORE (D-Md.), New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioUber sues New York City to void 'cruising cap' limit The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump pushes back over whistleblower controversy The Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC MORE (D) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro are slated to attend. 

Organizers said Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardAnalysis: 2020 digital spending vastly outpaces TV ads Sanders searches for answers amid Warren steamroller Kavanaugh book author on impeachment calls: 'That's not our determination to make' 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 Buttigieg2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum MSNBC Climate Change Forum draws 1.3M viewers in 8 pm timeslot Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE's team cited scheduling conflicts, while Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonMarkey fundraises ahead of Kennedy primary challenge The Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight 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) TesterDemocratic senators quietly hope Biden wins over rivals GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson to resign at end of year Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment 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 CantwellHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg courts critics on Capitol Hill | Amazon makes climate pledge | Senate panel approves 0M for state election security Zuckerberg woos Washington critics during visit Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers to discuss 'future internet regulation' MORE ... that can be said about [former Minnesota Sen.] Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenGOP Senate candidate said Republicans have 'dual loyalties' to Israel The Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? The Memo: Times correction gives GOP lifeline in latest Kavanaugh controversy 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.