Indianz.Com > News > ‘Happy days are here again’: Indian Country celebrates election of Joe Biden as president
Frances Kraus, an 88-year-old Tlingit elder originally from Kake, Alaska, celebrates the election of Democrat Joe Biden in Washington, D.C., on November 7, 2020. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
‘Happy days are here again’
Indian Country celebrates election of Joe Biden as president
Monday, November 9, 2020

BLACK LIVES MATTER PLAZA — Just five months after Donald Trump forcefully cleared peaceful protesters from a historic church here in the nation’s capital, Americans from all walks of life came together to celebrate the election of Democrat Joe Biden as president.

The scene at the St. John’s Church was the complete opposite of the terror that had been inflicted by the outgoing occupant of the White House. Tear gas, rubber bullets and police in riot gear were replaced by relief and joy as thousands of people descended on the streets of Washington, D.C., after the 2020 presidential race was called on Saturday morning.

“Happy days are here again,” Frances Kraus, an 88-year-old Tlingit elder, told Indianz.Com amid the celebration.

Though Kraus is originally from Kake, a predominantly Native community in Alaska, she cast her vote for for Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris in D.C., where she currently resides. But before she joined thousands of others in the streets, she eagerly informed her people back home about the outcome of the closely-watched race.

“I called people in Alaska to let them know,” Kraus said. Accounting for the time difference of four hours, it was still early morning in Kake when the crowds began to gather in Washington.

Proudly sporting an “Alaska” cap, Kraus was confident that her fellow Tlingit voters, many of whom are served by the Organized Village of Kake, were happy about the results too. And she was right: 57.2 percent of voters in her community supported Biden and Harris, according to unofficial results from the state division of elections.

“I’m smiling under this,” Kraus said from beneath her COVID-19 face covering.

‘No More Trump’: Crowd cheers at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C., on November 7, 2020. Video by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

But Kake wasn’t the only Native community that turned out in historic numbers for one of the most consequential elections in American history. Voters across Indian Country registered overwhelmingly strong support for the Democratic ticket, helping Biden and Harris achieve victory in key states like Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“The First Americans of this country, including a large majority of Navajo voters, had a major impact in the outcome of the presidential election in several swing states –- that needs to be recognized and acknowledged by all,” said President Jonathan Nez of the Navajo Nation, who was among the hundreds of tribal and Indian leaders who endorsed the Biden-Harris ticket.

In Apache County in Arizona, for example, 66 percent of the vote went for Biden, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State The population there is 75 percent American Indian and Alaska Native.

Similar results in other battleground states also showed the power of the Native vote. In Menominee County in Wisconsin, home to the Menominee Nation, Biden won a whopping 82 percent of the ballots, according to the the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes.

“We worked hard to facilitate the Native vote in the Midwest understanding what was at stake and really turned out the vote,” said President Shannon Holsey of the Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, another Biden supporter.

“Especially at a time of epic challenges,” Holsey said in reference to the pandemic, which continues to affect Native people at disproportionate rates.

The clear choices seen in Indian Country, however, have yet to register in other parts of the nation. Donald Trump has so far refused to accept the outcome of the election, with his backers crying fraud despite lacking solid evidence of wrongdoing at the polls.

The Republican Party at large is also refusing to budge. That includes three Native Republicans who have gone silent about the presidential race even as they achieved victory in their respective Congressional districts.

“President Trump or any individual of any political party has every right to exhaust every option to ensure an accurate outcome for the American people,” asserted Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation who otherwise has worked across party lines to advance tribal interests on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma), a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, offered a far more defiant reaction. He has amplified allegations of fraud in the presidential ballots, all while happily accepting the results in a district in Oklahoma where about 17 percent of the population is Native.

“Voters decide who wins the election, not the media,” Mullin said in a post on his official government social media account. “I fully support President Trump as he continues to fight for every legal vote to be counted.”

‘You’re Fired’: With the White House and neighboring Lafayette Park barricaded, messages to Donald Trump were posted on a fence adjoining Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, on November 7, 2020. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

And while newcomer Yvette Herrell, also Cherokee, made history by becoming the first Native woman to win Congressional office as a Republican, she too is spreading Trump’s misleading messages about the election. She hasn’t bothered to update her social media accounts since securing victory in New Mexico’s 2nd District, except for a post on Monday showcasing her pro-life bona fides.

But if Americans are looking to Biden and Harris to start settling scores after the heated race, they aren’t finding it in the president-elect and the vice president-elect. In an address to the nation on Saturday evening, both mentioned Native people as they emphasized unity and positivity.

“To all those who supported us: I am proud of the campaign we built and ran, Biden said from Wilmington, Delaware. “I am proud of the coalition we put together, the broadest and most diverse in history.”

“White. Latino. Asian. Native American,” Biden said.

Native Vote: Lakota matriarch Winona Flying Earth featured in Joe Biden victory video – November 7, 2020

In opening the event, Harris paid tribute to her late mother, who was an immigrant from India. She said women like Shyamala Gopalan helped pave the way for her election as the first woman vice president of the United States.

“She believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible,” said Harris, the U.S. Senator from California. “And so I am thinking about her and about the generations of women — Black women, Asian, White, Latina, Native American women — who throughout our nation’s history have paved the way for this moment tonight, women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all.”

Tribal leaders also made node of Harris’s groundbreaking achievement. Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, described the outcome of the election as “a profound moment in history.”

“The glass ceiling is forever shattered and our little girls now know their dreams can come true,” said Benjamin, whose tribe is based in Minnesota. “I’m excited for the day when I meet Senator Harris again and get to say, ‘Madame Vice President.’”

According to CNN, which was the first media outlet to call the race at around 11:24am Eastern on Saturday, Biden has secured at least 270 electoral votes. The number needed to win the presidency is 270.

Ballots are still being counted in a handful of states. But observers do not see the results changing the outcome in a manner that would tip the race to Trump, who will have only served one term in office.

The next president will be inaugurated in the nation’s capital on January 20, 2021.
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