ICT Interview: Sen. Obama's Indian vote director
Indian Country Today interviews Wizipan Garriott, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota who serves as First Americans vote director for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois).

"ICT: Has it been difficult to run against Sen. John McCain on Indian issues, given his past service on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee?

Garriott: When Indian country is able to see who Barack is as a person and how they identify with him personally, and also what he plans to do when he becomes president, the choice becomes clear. ... When you look at the record of McCain, yes, he has done some good things for Indian country, but how could you not when you have more than 20 tribes in your state and you sit on the Indian Affairs committee? You’d be forced in many instances to cast the right vote. ... When it’s convenient, John McCain may cast the right vote; but when it’s inconvenient, he’ll tow the party line every time.

ICT: Have you thought at all about the fact that Sen. Obama doesn’t have a whole lot of past experience in terms of a voting record on Indian issues?

Garriott: I think that it comes down to leadership. We’ve seen time and time again where McCain just hasn’t shown leadership. He was chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, but he could not get the Indian Health Care Improvement Act passed in a Republican-controlled Senate, a Republican-controlled House and a Republican president. Where has the leadership been?

Barack has been out on the forefront. Yes, it’s true, there are no federally recognized tribes from his home state [of Illinois], but when he’s talking about what he wants to do as president, he’s offered strong leadership. ... Also, I think just in general, Democrats have been more attuned to and willing to fight for Indians versus Republicans. "

Get the Story:
Obama’s First Americans vote director assesses Election ’08 (Indian Country Today 10/9)

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