Mark Trahant: Montana tribes agree to host Congressional debates

Denise Juneau, center, campaigns at the Arlee Celebration on the Flathead Reservation in June 2016. Photo from Facebook

#NativeVote16 – Montana congressional debates will take place on tribal lands
By Mark Trahant
Trahant Reports

Denise Juneau and Ryan Zinke have agreed to a series of congressional debates across Montana. And half of those debates will occur in Indian Country.

The first debate will be in Frazer within the Fort Peck Assiniboine Sioux Tribal Nation. That will take place on August 29.

Both campaigns have also agreed to a debate on the Crow Nation but the details remain to be worked out.

“I’m pleased Congressman Zinke has agreed to debate me in Billings, Great Falls, Frazer and Crow Agency, and address the issues that are vitally important to Montana voters,” Juneau said. “It’s time Congressman Zinke explain why he’s voted to cut public lands funding, voted to transfer management of our lands to politically-appointed boards, voted to slash funding for Pell grants, and voted to limit health care for Montana women.”

“We are very excited to announce such a historic debate schedule with two debates east of Billings and two on reservations, including in Fort Peck where I am proud to be an adopted member,” said Congressman Zinke. “Eastern Montana and the sovereign nations are equally as important as Billings, Great Falls and other population centers, but they often don’t get the attention they deserve. I’m looking forward to speaking directly with voters from these communities about how we can work together to get America and Montana back on the right track.”

This will be interesting. Obviously it’s historic: Two congressional debates in Native communities is unprecedented. But beyond that it’s important because these two tribal homelands are facing extraordinary challenges with violence, addiction, and the loss of jobs from the natural resource economy. There will be plenty to talk about. Especially if the candidates address their very different approaches to the role of the federal government when it comes to these issues.

Two other debates are scheduled: One in Billings on Sept. 1, and in Great Falls, on Oct. 5. The Libertarian candidate, Mike Fellows, has also been invited to participate in each debate.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. To read more of his regular #NativeVote16 updates, follow On Facebook: TrahantReports On Twitter: @TrahantReports

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