The Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Candidate Forum held August 19-20, 2019 in Sioux City, Iowa was a historic occasion for Indian Country. For the first time ever, Native American voters got a first-hand account of where presidential candidates stand on today’s pressing issues, and particularly those facing Indian Country. The presidential hopefuls themselves were able to engage with Native peoples, hear their concerns, and learn that Native American issues are not partisan; they are American issues.
The forum, hosted by Four Directions, was a non-partisan event and featured a jam-packed schedule of 2020 presidential hopefuls. All major candidates vying for President of the United States in 2020 were invited to answer questions about important issues facing 5.2 million Native American voters across the country.
In all, eleven presidential candidates accepted the invitation and answered questions from a panel comprised of tribal leaders, tribal members, and Native American youth in front of a live audience at Sioux City’s Orpheum Theater and was broadcast to thousands of online viewers at www.nativevote2020.com. Indian Country Today Editor Mark Trahant (Shoshone-Bannock) served as moderator for the event.
Monday’s lineup featured Marianne Williamson, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Steve Bullock. Tuesday saw even more candidates and featured Joe Sestak, Mark Charles, John Delaney, Kamala Harris, Julian Castro, Bill de Blasio, and Bernie Sanders.
Candidates fielded questions and addressed a number of hot-button issues ranging from voting rights, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), climate change, healthcare, housing, tribal consultation, land into trust, law and order, drug and alcohol issues, social and economic issues, and tribal treaties and sovereignty.
The Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Candidate Forum may have been the first of its kind, but the dedicated efforts of tribal nations, tribal organizations, and tribal citizens, have the power to ensure that it is not the last. It is up to Native peoples to stay engaged and to show elected officials that Native concerns matter. Our strength is in our voice and come Election Day, Indian Country can show the world that every Native vote counts!