Sen. Barack Obama
(D-Illinois) claimed the Democratic nomination for president on Tuesday, along with a majority of Indian votes from South Dakota and Montana.
Obama, who was endorsed by a slew
of Sioux tribal leaders, lost the
South Dakota primary to Sen. Hillary Clinton
(D-New York). But he was clearly the candidate of choice on the state's reservations, whose voters were targeted by both campaigns.
The race in Montana went to Obama, who made history by being the first of the leading presidential candidates
to campaign in Indian Country. Reservation residents responded by sending the majority of their votes his way during the last of the Democratic primaries.
Though Clinton has not formally conceded, Obama has secured enough delegates -- including endorsements from four Indian superdelegates -- to win the nomination. The presumptive Republican nominee is Sen. John McCain
(R-Arizona), the former chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee
"All three candidates brought a sincere commitment to Indian Country," said Matt Tomaskin, a member of Yakama Nation of Washington and the co-chair of Native Vote Washington
, a group that is working to increase American Indian and Alaska Native participation in the November general election.
"And, while all three candidates individually have a lot to offer us, it is Indian Country which stands to gain the most this fall if the presumptive nominees can convince their own national parties and down-ballot candidates
to address our real needs," Tomaskin said.
Obama and Clinton both met with tribal leaders in South Dakota, though Clinton was the only one to campaign on a reservation in the state. Former president Bill Clinton visited a record four reservations in the days leading to the primary.
Obama, however, won the majority of the vote in the eight counties with large Indian populations. In Shannon County, home to the Pine Ridge Reservation -- where Sen. Clinton campaigned -- he won 52 percent.
In Bennett County, where parts of the Pine Ridge Reservation are located, Obama won 53 percent of the vote. Indians made up 52 percent of the county population.
In Todd County, home to the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, Obama won an overwhelming 63 percent of the vote. Bill Clinton had campaigned on the reservation prior to the primary.
Mellette County, where 52 percent of the population is Indian, also went to Obama. He won 57 percent of the vote there.
In Ziebach County and Dewey County, where the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation is located, Obama was also the candidate of choice. He won Ziebach with 63 percent of the vote and Dewey with 59 percent of the vote.
In Corson County, which encompasses the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, Obama won 55 percent of the vote. In Buffalo County on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation, he won 59 percent.
Though he was the clear winner in these eight majority-Indian counties, Obama didn't do as well in counties with mixed Indian and non-Indian populations. For example, in Charles Mix County, home to the Yankton Sioux Reservation, he lost to Clinton, who won 55 percent of the vote.
But in Lyman County, home to the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation, he won with 55 percent of the vote. Indians make up 33 percent of the population in the county.
As for Montana, Obama overwhelmingly won Big Horn County -- home to the Crow Reservation, where Obama made history with his May 19 visit -- by a nearly 4-to-1 margin over Clinton. Crow Tribe
Chairman Carl Venne
endorsed Obama prior to the primary.
Glacier County, home to the Blackfeet Reservation, also went to Obama. So did Roosevelt County, home to the Fort Peck Reservation, and even Blaine County, where the population is nearly evenly split between Indians from the Fort Belknap Reservation and non-Indians.
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