Mark Trahant: 'Prez on the Rez' forum a success

"It's funny how politics works. Three presidential candidates participated in a forum last week. They committed news, raising substantial ideas followed by concrete, even controversial, plans.

But this is probably the first you're reading about Prez On The Rez. It wasn't considered a big deal because of who wasn't here, the so-called big three: Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards. The Democratic forum was designed to find out how the candidates would deal with concerns of American Indians and Alaskan Natives.

This is new. It's never been done. Only a few years ago candidates wouldn't have even thought about Indian Country -- too few votes, hardly any money, little reason to visit. But much of that changed in Washington state when tribes and reservation voters organized to vote against Sen. Slade Gorton. Of course Maria Cantwell won -- and since then Native American voters helped elect senators and governors from Montana to Arizona (including Washington state).

Presidential candidates know this on one level. Nearly every campaign publishes a policy paper that is supposed to take care of everything. If only we, the voters out there, read these documents. If only we, the voters in Indian country, actually believed these documents.

Prez On The Rez is different because it brought the candidates before an audience of tribal leaders on the Morongo Reservation. Some 75 communities were represented from mostly the West and Midwest. I was the forum's moderator."

Get the Story:
Mark Trahant: It's funny how politics works (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer 8/26)

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