Donald Trump closes Republican convention that left out Indian Country

Indiana governor Mike Pence, left, and real estate mogul Donald Trump sign the nomination papers for vice president and president, respectively, of the Republican Party in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 21, 2016. Photo from DJT / Facebook

Tribes sent representatives and some tribal citizens were there too but Indian Country was missing from the big picture as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump accepted his party's nomination on Thursday.

The real estate mogul delivered one of the longest acceptance speeches in history and touched on familiar themes of immigration, free trade and law and order. He also broached some surprising topics -- he vowed to "protect our LGBTQ citizens" although he said it was to protect them from "Islamic" terrorism.

Otherwise, there was little directed at Indian Country's interests. Trump avoided talking about the environment and climate change and only made a brief mention about increasing energy production, an issue high on the agenda for tribes and tribal activists.

Elsewhere, Trump advanced several ideas that could negatively impact the first Americans. He vowed to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, the law that made the Indian Health Care Improvement Act permanent.

Republicans have been trying to do that for years but Democratic opposition and a Democrat in the White House -- President Barack Obama -- have prevented it from happening.

"We will repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare," Trump said.

As president, Trump vowed to eliminate "wasteful spending projects" within his first 100 days in office. With the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service already suffering from underfunding, that spells trouble for Indian programs.

"The politicians have talked about it -- I’m going to do it," Trump asserted.

Trump also promised to "appoint justices to the United States Supreme Court who will uphold our laws and our Constitution." He voiced praise for the late Antonin Scalia, who remained extremely hostile to tribal interests up until his death in February.

"This will be one of the most important issues decided by this election," Trump said of the power of the president to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Scalia's absence turned out to a blessing in disguise as tribal interests secured strong victories and averted disaster in a series of important cases. His replacement could tip the scales for Indian Country going forward.

"I'm asking for your support tonight so that I can be your champion in the White House," Trump concluded.

The speech capped off a dramatic week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. It included a belated admission of plagiarism in wife Melania Trump's opening night remarks, some raucous disputes on the delegate floor and a brutal reaction to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who refused to endorse his party's nominee.

The party itself failed to advance any new policy goals for Indian Country except for an embrace of the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act. The 2016 platform otherwise repeats word for word the 2012 document, which itself was nearly the same as the 2008 effort with respect to American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian issues.

Get the Story:
Donald Trump positions himself as the voice of ‘the forgotten men and women’ (The Washington Post 7/22)
His Tone Dark, Donald Trump Takes G.O.P. Mantle (The New York Times 7/22)

Republican Party Platform Documents:
2016: Honoring Our Relationship with American Indians | 2012: Honoring Our Relationship with American Indians | 2008: Supporting Native American Communities | 2004: Native Americans | 2000: Native Americans

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