Native leaders in Alaska endorse Hillary Clinton in historic move

Alaska Natives from around the state are gathering in Fairbanks fro the annual Alaska Federation of Natives conference. Photo by Tanana Chiefs Conference

For the first time in its history, the Alaska Federation of Natives is endorsing a candidate for president.

AFN's board of directors made a "bold choice" to support Democrat Hillary Clinton, the organization said in a statement. A resolution approved on Tuesday says the former Secretary of State and former U.S. Senator has worked to improve lives in Indian Country and will continue to do so if she wins the November election.

"With only 20 days until the Presidential election on November 8th, the choice we have is this: 1) to elect a president who will continue working with us to achieve further self-determination and legal empowerment as sovereign, self-governing Indigenous peoples, with a firm foothold in the larger economy and strong Native institutions, full of hope and confidence for our children and grandchildren; OR 2) to elect a president who will lead our federal government down the path of marginalizing Native Americans and dramatically weakening the special trust relationship between Native Americans and the federal government, putting at risk all the gains we have achieved in our lifetime," the statement read.

The historic announcement comes as AFN kicks off its annual convention on Thursday. Thousands of tribal leaders, elders and youth are in Fairbanks to address some of the major issues in their communities.

The first page of the Alaska Federation of Natives resolution in support of Hillary Clinton for president. Source: AFN

Federal policy, elections and voting rights have always been high on the agenda and appearing at AFN is a must for any serious politician in Alaska. Native Americans represent 14.8 percent of the population in the state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and candidates always come calling every October.

This year is no different. AFN is hosting a forum on Friday afternoon for the candidates in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House races.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) , who is running for re-election, has repeatedly credited her unprecedented write-in victory to AFN's endorsement in 2010, which was a first for the organization at the time. She will be among the candidates appearing at the forum.

No one representing Clinton or Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is on the preliminary agenda, though.

Alaska is considered by political observers to be safe for Republicans. But Trump's incendiary comments about the first Americans, women, immigrants, people of the Muslim faith, children of immigrants and African-Americans have sent more voters to Clinton's corner -- his lead in polls has dwindled in recent weeks.

"The decision we make in November will have serious and immediate consequences for our nation and most especially for our people," AFN said in its statement.

AFN's convention runs from Thursday through Saturday.

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