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Kerry campaign counting on Native American support

VOTE 2004: Sen. John Kerry appears with Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. at a rally in Flagstaff. Photo © Navajo Nation.
On the Web: Navajo Nation
From the leader of the nation's largest tribe to former members of the Clinton administration, the Democratic presidential ticket of Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards is lining up its Indian Country support.

With the election less than 90 days away, Kerry said his Native advisers will play an important role in the coming weeks. "Our Native Americans for Kerry-Edwards effort continues to grow every day and these leaders will play a critical role in helping to energize, organize and mobilize the Native American community as we head towards November 2nd," the Massachusetts senator announced in a statement yesterday.

The advisers include a number of prominent Indian leaders, like Mary Ann Andreas, the former chairwoman of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians of California and a candidate for state office. Wilma Mankiller, former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Stanley G. Jones Sr., chairman of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington and Loretta Tuell, a Nez Perce tribal member who served in the Clinton administration, are other supporters. Many had backed former Vermont governor Howard Dean.

The announcement comes on the heels of Kerry's weekend trip through New Mexico and Arizona. He met with several tribal leaders from both states and spoke at the 83rd annual Gallup Inter-tribal Ceremonial in Gallup, New Mexico, on Sunday.

Pledging his support for tribal issues at the pow-wow, he reiterated his plan to increase Indian Health Service funding, elevate the IHS director to an assistant secretary and appoint a Native American to a top position in the White House.

Statements like that secured the endorsement of Joe Shirley Jr., president of the Navajo Nation, the largest tribe in the country. Shirley rode with Kerry on the train ride from Gallup to Arizona and appeared with the presidential hopeful at a rally in Flagstaff on Sunday night.

"For far too long, critical issues related to Native America have been out on the back burner," Shirley said. "Senator Kerry has already listened and knows our issues, and I believe that he will be there for our Native people."

The Navajo Nation Council, the tribe's legislative body, has not endorsed a candidate but some council delegates, including Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan, accompanied Kerry on the train ride. Typically, the council calls those seeking its support before a council meeting.

While in Arizona, Kerry also received the endorsement of the White Mountain Apache Tribe. Chairman Dallas Massey was a passenger on the train ride.

The Kerry-Edwards campaign is depending on tribal support in several key states, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Mexico, Washington and Montana. Native Americans in these states make up a significant portion of the population and have the power to sway an election.

Native Americans for Kerry-Edwards is:

Mary Ann Andreas, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, California
Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive of Mille Lacs Band, Minnesota Robert Stephen Bolinger, Osage / Omaha
Nicole R. Bowman, member, Stockbridge-Munsee Band, Wisconsin
Deborah Ann Broken Rope, Oglala Lakota
Michael Chapman, tribal councl, Menominee Nation, Wisconsin
David F. Conrad, Osage
Holly Cook, Red Lake Band, Minnesota
Andrew Ebona, Tlingit Tribe, Alaska
David Gomez, Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
LaDonna Harris, President of Americans for Indian Opportunity, Comanche
Laura Harris, Americans for Indian Opportunity, Comanche
Rain Henderson, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, New York
Lori Hildebrandt, Cherokee Nation
Elizabeth Homer, Osage
Jack C. Jackson Jr., Navajo Nation
Stanley G. Jones Sr., Chairman of Tulalip Tribes, Washington
Carol Juneau, Mandan-Hidatsa
JoAnn Kauffman, Nez Perce
D. Bambi Kraus, Tlingit Tribe
Marcy Campbell Krinsk, Cherokee Nation
Cynthia LaMere, Winnebago Tribe, Nebraska
Frank LaMere, Winnebago Tribe, Nebraska
Gwen Lankford, Gros Ventre, Montana
Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee Nation
Arlan D. Melendez, Chairman of Reno Sparks Indian Colony, Nevada
Carolee Morris, Cowlitz Tribe, Washington
Gary "Red Cloud" Neumann, Salish / Kootenai
Stephine L. Poston, Sandia Pueblo, New Mexico
David Rivas Jr, Tunica- Biloxi Tribe, Louisiana
Sue Shaffer, Chair of Cow Creek Tribe, Oregona
John Sinclair, Chairman of Little Shell Chippewa Tribe, Montana
Mary Smith, Cherokee
Patricia Smith, Yakima Nation, Washington
Loretta Tuell, Nez Perce
Brian Wallace, Chairman of Washoe Tribe, Nevada
Darnee Wambsgans, Tunica-Biloxi Tribe, Louisiana
Rhonda Whiting, Salish / Kootenai
Judy Winchester, tribal council, Pokagon Band Potawatomi, Michigan

Relevant Links:
Kerry/Edwards Campaign -