Rocking the Native vote

 

Health care, tribal sovereignty, education, economic development and criminal justice. These are some of the most critical issues with which Native Americans are currently wrestling, and there's a lot on the line in the 2008 election. This was the message at Wednesday's "Native Nations United for Change Policy Discussion."

"We've suffered through a long, cold winter of George W. Bush," said Keith Harper, a tribal lawyer. "His policies have either been exclusion or outright hostility. And we need a fundamental change... and Barack Obama is the man to make that fundamental change."

And the Obama campaign has reached out to Indian country, inviting leaders to participate in policy and platform development early on. With Native Americans comprising a sizeable number of eligible voters in Western swing states -- and with 85% of those voting Democratic -- it's no wonder Obama is reaching out to Native communities.

The campaign recently added Wizi Garriott as chief organizer for Indian country, and he's working to get out the Native vote. Garriott cited an impressive statistic: there are 20,000 untapped American Indian voters in Montana, a state where Democratic Senator Jon Tester won by just 3,000 votes in 2006.

And American Indian voters could play crucial roles in New Mexico,Colorado and North Dakota, as well.