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Bernie Sanders sweeps three states as Native issues stay on agenda

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders campaigns in Yakima, Washington, on March 24, 2016. The flag of the Yakama Nation, bordered in blue, was displayed prominently at the rally. Photo from Bernie 2016

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders won contests in three states on Saturday, maintaining pressure on front-runner Hillary Clinton as the 2016 race continues.

In Washington, Sanders easily defeated Clinton with 73 percent of the vote. His victory was striking because a slew of prominent tribal leaders -- including National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby and Ron Allen, the chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe -- threw their support to his rival.

“Native Americans have been lied to. They’ve been cheated,” Sanders said during a rally in Yakima on Thursday, according to his campaign. “If elected president, there will be a new relationship with the Native American community."

Prior to the rally, Sanders met with leaders of the Yakama Nation, Jacqueline Keeler reported for Indian Country Today. The tribe gave him a beaded medallion in the shape of the tribal seal, she wrote, and a tribal dance group performed at the rally itself.

During a visit to Seattle earlier in the week, Sanders was given a name in the Lushootseed language by Deborah Parker, a former council member for the Tulalip Tribes. She said "dxʷshudičup" means "the one lighting the fires for change and unity," according to a video posted by Nicole Willis, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation who works for the campaign.

Clinton, incidentally, was also given a name in Lushootseed during a visit to the Puyallup Reservation last week. Hers translates to "strong woman."

Jane Sanders with Mary Ann Johnson, a board member for United Tribes of Bristol Bay, on March 25, 2016. Sanders was supposed to meet with tribal leaders in person but her visit to Dillingham was canceled due to weather. She instead held a lengthy conference call on Friday. Photo from UTBB / Facebook

While Sanders was focusing on Washington, his wife was in Alaska, where the candidate won 82 percent of the vote. Jane Sanders held a long discussion with the United Tribes of Bristol Bay on Friday and said her husband would not approve the controversial Pebble Mine that Alaska Natives oppose due to concerns about their subsistence fishing rights.

“We are so grateful that presidential candidates are willing to listen and hear what’s important to our indigenous people in Bristol Bay and the issues so many of our people are facing throughout Alaska," Robert Heyano, the president of UTBB, said in a press release. "We are overjoyed and grateful that the Sanders campaign came to hear from our tribes and now support our efforts to protect our fisheries, our communities, and our way of life from large-scale mines like Pebble.”

The project -- which Clinton also opposes -- is already on shaky ground and President Barack Obama has indicated it will not gain approval during his administration. He traveled to Bristol Bay and met two Native women who fish there during his historic three-day visit to the state last year.

In the last of the three contests on Saturday, Sanders won Hawaii with 70 percent of the ballots. Clinton expressed support for Native Hawaiian nationhood earlier this month but her stance apparently didn't translate to more votes.

Despite the victories, Sanders trails Clinton in delegate counts. His campaign believes he can still secure the nomination as the race moves to states like New York and Wisconsin.

Get the Story:
Bernie Wins Big in Caucuses with the Help of "Birdie Sanders" and Jane in Alaska (Indian Country Today 3/27)
Democratic voter voices from Washington, Alaska and Hawaii (AP 3/27)
Bernie Sanders wins big in Washington caucuses (The Seattle Times 3/27)
Bernie Sanders Seizes 3 States, Sweeping Democratic Contests (The New York Times 3/27)
Sanders sharpens attacks for N.Y. showdown that may dash Clinton’s unity hopes (The Washington Post 3/27)
Landslide victory for Sanders in packed Alaska Democratic caucuses (Alaska Dispatch News 3/26)
Tribal leaders throw pre-caucus support to Hillary Clinton (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer 3/25)
Sanders takes stand against Pebble mine after wife's talk with Bristol Bay tribes (Alaska Dispatch News 3/25)
County feels ‘The Bern’ (The Sunnyside Daily Sun News 3/25)
Photos: Jane O'Meara Sanders campaigns for husband Bernie in Anchorage (Alaska Dispatch News 3/24)
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders honoured with Coast Salish name (CBC 3/23)
Puyallup Tribe hosts Hillary Clinton for tribal leaders roundtable (The Tacoma Weekly 3/23)

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