Warren, Williamson among candidates at historic Native American presidential forum

Religion News Service | 8/19/2019 | Staff
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(RNS) — The largest presidential election forum focused on the concerns of Native Americans drew several leading Democratic presidential candidates in its first day, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

The Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum — named for the late Winnebago activist — is hosted by Native American voting rights group Four Directions and the Native Organizers Alliance.

Panel - Leaders - Citizens - American - Youth

A panel of tribal leaders, tribal citizens and Native American youth presented questions to each of the presidential candidates who appeared Monday (Aug. 19) at the two-day forum. A total 11 candidates are expected to attend the forum at the Orpheum Theater in Sioux City, Iowa, either in person or via video.

O.J. Semans, co-executive director of Four Directions, introduced the forum as “Indian Country 101 for America,” which included discussions of issues informed by Indigenous spirituality.

Judith - LeBlanc - Director - Native - Organizers

Judith LeBlanc, director of the Native Organizers Alliance, referenced the the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s action to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota in her opening remarks. That action was sustained by a belief in the sacredness of the land and a spiritual responsibility to protect the water that ran through it.

“We are moving on a continuum from protest to power,” LeBlanc said.

Rock - Rock - Cities - Reservations

“Standing Rock interrupted the narrative, and when we left Standing Rock, we went back to our cities and our reservations to organize.”

Warren’s appearance at the forum was highly anticipated, in part because of controversy surrounding her claim to Cherokee ancestry.

Cherokee - Writer - Activist - Rebecca - Nagle

Cherokee writer and activist Rebecca Nagle and other activists have taken issue with the claim. Meantime, President Trump has regularly mocked Warren by referring to her as “Pocahontas” — a remark many Indigneous people also see as racist.

Warren appeared to address the controversy in her opening remarks.

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