Oregon Tribal Leaders: Why we support Sen. Obama
Sen. Barack  Obama (D-Illinois) at a rally in Pendleton, Oregon. May 18, 2008
After seven years of failed policies and decades of divisive politics in Washington, many Americans have abandoned hope that our concerns will be taken seriously. It only makes sense that in these difficult times we turn to a candidate who has done more than any national political figure in recent memory to espouse hope in this country. Senator Obama has inspired thousands of Americans to join his movement for change.

As Native Americans, we are endorsing Barack Obama in the Oregon presidential primary because he understands the core issues that matter to Indian Country here in the state. He understands poverty. He understands the concept of minority communities. He has seen and lived in areas of abject poverty, of poor health conditions. He has experienced the merging of different cultures. He has lived in places where the indigenous people, whose very lands were taken, are disenfranchised and have little voice in the big decisions that affect them. Senator Obama has seen minority populations relegated to the background.

Above all, Barack Obama represents the kind of real change that Indian Country will need to address the issues facing our community. Despite a cultural and linguistic revival, and even a Vice-Presidential candidate some time ago, little attention seems to have been given to native issues in the national discourse. Demographically, we continue to be one of the poorest populations, with the highest unemployment rate, and the greatest risk for health-related issues in this country.

Senator Obama has outlined a number of steps to give the issues facing the Indian community the attention they deserve. He has pledged to appoint an American Indian Policy advisor to his senior White House staff. He has already proposed an annual "Tribal G8" meeting of national Tribal leaders to develop an Indian policy agenda. And Senator Obama has continuously upheld Tribal sovereignty through support of policies for self-determination and self-governance, and has indicated support for legal protection of sacred places and cultural traditions.

Senator Obama has proven that he will indeed be a serious champion for Indian Country, focusing on the issues that affect tribes everywhere, including right here in Oregon. He has indicated that he would reform our broken trust system. He was one of the original cosponsors of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 2007, and has advocated for providing an extra $1 billion for Indian Health Services. And Senator Obama has supported the Combat Meth Act of 2005 to help fight a growing plague on our reservations.

Having recently paid off his own student loans, Senator Obama understands the importance of education and the struggles many of us face in pursuing educational opportunities. As President, he is committed to fully funding No Child Left Behind and meaningfully reforming the act to better incorporate the Title VII-Indian Education provision. Furthermore, Senator Obama supports integrating native languages, culture and customs into tribal school programs, in addition to increasing funding for American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start programs, which are critical to helping our children succeed. He also understands the need to protect our natural resources, and to diversify our tribal economies through economic development and entrepreunership with tax incentives to spur our tribal economies. These are key policy principles that are important to our nations.

We face an important choice in the Democratic Primary here in Oregon. The reality is that many of our nation's problems – and those of our community – aren't going to be solved until we abandon the politics of fear and have an honest dialogue with one another. Barack Obama possesses a rare quality not seen very often in modern-day politicians. What he says, he actually means. It is this honesty that makes Barack Obama uniquely suited to bring us together to address the challenges of Indian Country.

Chris Mercier, council member, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde; Antone Minthorn, chair, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation; Ron Suppah, chair, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs; Jeff Mitchell, council member, Klamath Tribes; Wink Soderberg, council member, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde; Aurolyn Stwyer, vice-chair, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs; Michael R. Johnson, Chair, General Council of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation; Shawna Gavin, Secretary, General Council of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation; Armand Minthorn, council member, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are members of Senator Barack Obama’s Tribal Leaders Steering Committee.

Related Stories:
Sen. Clinton reiterates Indian health support (5/16)
Bill Clinton campaigns on Pine Ridge Reservation (5/15)
Jodi Rave: A candidate for the youngest generation (5/15)
Jodi Rave: Clinton and Obama court Indian vote (5/14)
Clinton and Obama eye Indian vote in South Dakota (5/14)
Column: Russell Means predicts Obama win in 2008 (5/14)
Bill Clinton to campaign on Pine Ridge Reservation (5/13)
South Dakota Indians back Clinton for president (5/12)
Indian superdelegate backs Obama for president (5/12)
Cherokee chief praises Obama as 'good president' (5/12)
New Mexico selects Indian superdelegate (5/9)
Kevin Abourezk: Obama and McCain on Indians (5/9)
Counting the Indian vote in North Carolina (5/8)
Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton share primary victories (5/7)
Jodi Rave: Obama secures Indian superdelegates (5/6)
Sen. Obama welcomes Kalyn Free's endorsement (5/6)
Clinton and Obama back Lumbee recognition (5/6)
Superdelegate Kalyn Free endorses Sen. Obama (5/5)
Abourezk: Crow man spreads Obama's message (5/2)
Jodi Rave: Chippewa Cree woman in Clinton camp (04/25)
Jodi Rave: Montana tribal leaders back Obama (4/24)
Clinton wins primary in Pennsylvania (4/23)
Indian baby gets face time with Obama and Clinton (4/21)
Kevin Abourezk: Crow man to help Obama in Montana (4/21)
Jodi Rave: Clinton campaign falters on Indian policy (4/17)
Kevin Abourezk: Tom Daschle for vice president? (4/14)
South Dakota tribal leaders endorse Obama (4/11)
Indian lawmaker in Montana backs Sen. Obama (4/11)
Opinion: No defense for Obama's pastor Wright (4/10)
Indian lawmaker rescinds Obama endorsement (4/8)
Indian superdelegate from Montana backs Obama (4/7)
Jodi Rave: Clinton and Obama make Indian pledges (4/7)
Lumbees excited about Bill Clinton campaign visit (4/3)