Republican vice presidential pick Mike Pence hosts town hall at Sandia Pueblo

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 20, 2016. Photo from Facebook

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence will appear at a campaign event in Indian Country, a first for the rocky campaign of White House hopeful Donald Trump.

Pence is scheduled to speak at a town hall at Sandia Resort and Casino at 3:30pm Mountain time on Tuesday. The facility is owned by Sandia Pueblo and it's often used for public events due to its close proximity to Albuquerque, the largest city in the state.

The New Mexico Republican Party in fact held its convention there in May. A dust-up over media credentials drew negative press attention to the event before the tribe cleared up the confusion.

Native Americans represent 10.5 percent of the population in New Mexico and 4.6 percent of the population in Albuquerque, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Besides Sandia, several Pueblo tribes and one Navajo Nation community are located near the city.

With its sizable Native and Hispanic populations, the state easily went for President Barack Obama in 2012 and in 2008. The counties that are home to Indian Country all voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic candidate.

And with just five electoral votes, New Mexico is not considered a big prize in the election. Only one poll has been conducted in the past year and it showed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton with an eight-point lead over Trump. Former two-term governor Gary Johnson, who is running on the Libertarian Party ticket, drew a noteworthy support from 14 percent of respondents.

Trump has not discussed Indian policy at all since the real estate mogul entered the race in June 2015. His campaign has not enlisted any tribal citizens as advisers or supporters, a marked contrast to that of Clinton and of prior candidates from both parties.

Trump, though, has an extremely volatile relationship with Indian Country that dates back to the 1990s. Whether it's questioning the identity of indigenous peoples or attacking the integrity of the Indian gaming industry, tribes have come into frequent conflict with the controversial figure.

More recently, his attacks on Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) over her disputed Indian ancestry even drew criticism from fellow Republicans for furthering stereotypes about Native women. Trump has not brought up the issue for a few weeks now.

Pence is a former member of Congress who currently serves as governor of Indiana. He has not had much of a record on Indian issues mainly due to the limited presence of tribes in the state.

But he has expressed conflicting stances on gaming and allowed a gaming expansion bill to become law last year even though he previously said was opposed to the idea on principle.

If he were to stay in office as governor long enough, Pence might need to firm up his positions. The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, whose members live in the northwestern part of the state, is seeking to expand its territory, which could lead to negotiations on gaming, jurisdiction and other issues.

The tribe's land-into-trust application for about 165 acres in South Bend is pending at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Although there's no timeline for a decision, it's possible it will be left to the next presidential administration.

Read More on the Story:
Trump running mate Pence heads to ABQ, Roswell today for town hall meetings (The Albuquerque Journal 8/16)
Vice presidential nominee Pence adds two stops in N.M. (The Santa Fe New Mexican 8/16)
Dems criticize GOP VP nominee ahead of NM visit (New Mexico Political Report 8/15)
Pence to hold two campaign rallies in NM (New Mexico Political Report 8/14)

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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