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Update from the DNC Native Americans

Good Afternoon Indian Country,
Last Thursday’s Democratic debate in Milwaukee showcased two dynamic candidates who are interested in a serious and substantive debate worthy of the American people.  Compared to circus like atmosphere of the Republican debates--full of crass and divisive rhetoric--the contrast couldn’t be clearer.  Our debate reinforced what Americans are seeing more and more every day, we need to elect a Democrat as our 45th President to keep America moving forward.
During the pre-debate program, Wisconsin Democratic Native American Chairwoman, Arvina Martin (Ho-Chunk Nation), had the opportunity to speak on the importance of protecting the voting rights of all Americans, including Native Americans, who face significant barriers at the ballot box.      
Arvina Martin (Ho-Chunk Nation)
   Chair of Wisconsin Democratic Native American Caucus

As we look ahead to the Democratic primary, we couldn’t ask for a more exciting race.  Secretary Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders have voters energized and the hard work their campaigns have done at the grassroots level has turned out the vote in a big way, as they split victories in Iowa and New Hampshire during the first caucus and primary of the year.  


Secretary Hillary Clinton


Senator Bernie Sanders


Next our candidates will look to carry their momentum out west for the Nevada Caucuses on February 20th and then south for the South Carolina Primary on February 27th.  For information how to vote in the Nevada Caucuses click here.   

Both Democratic candidates have been smart and substantive, and they understand how to build on the incredible progress our country has made over the last seven years, including 71 straight months of private-sector growth.  From the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, permanently authorizing the Indian Healthcare improvement Act, placing over 300,000 acres into trust for tribal governments, to creating programs that invest in future of Native American youth, Democrats will  build upon our progress to strengthen Native American communities, support tribal sovereignty, and foster economic opportunities for Indian Country.  

Donald Trump ran away with the Republican primary in New Hampshire and placed second in Iowa sending a clear message to the American people that the rise of extreme elements in the Republican primary isn’t just entertainment anymore, it has overtaken the Republican Party.  From calling Mexican “rapists and criminals,” to calling for a ban on all Muslims from entering the country, Donald Trump has also proved that he is no friend of Indian Country’s when he racially disparaged the leadership of the Mashantucket Pequot claiming, “They don’t look like Indians to me and  they don’t look like Indians to Indians.”     

The rest of the Republican field doesn’t look better.  Both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz voted against the Violence against Women Act in the Senate. Jeb Bush openly supports the keeping the Washington football team’s name claiming, “I don’t find it offensive.”  Each Republican candidate said they would repeal the Affordable Care Act  which contains the permanent authorization of the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act.  What is clear is that Republicans do not understand Indian Country and would take away all the progress we've made.    

President Obama’s Budget
Last week, President Obama put forward his budget for Fiscal Year 2017 that makes critical investments to grow our economy and strengthen our communities to create a world that we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren.  In line with the President’s consistent commitment to Indian Country, President Obama has proposed numerous budget increases to accelerate community development and economic opportunities in Indian Country, cover the federal government’s responsibility for contract support costs, and invest over $1 billion to support the comprehensive transformation of the Bureau of Indian Education.
“Across the Board Increases for Obama’s Indian Country Budget”



National Democratic Convention Diversity Supplier List
The Democratic National Convention Host Committee is committed to diversity in the vendors and contractors that are used for the Democratic National Convention in July 2016. We encourage minority-owned businesses to register for contract consideration with the 2016 National Democratic Convention.  Our goal is for 35% of Convention contracts to go to diverse vendors as part of our overall spending for the Convention.  Prospective businesses interested in being considered an official Democratic National Convention vendor should register at

The 2016 Vendor Directory is a comprehensive listing of businesses that have registered for contract consideration on the Host Committee’s vendor webpage. The directory will be used by the Host Committee, DNCC and other interested parties for needed services leading up to and during the Convention. It will also be provided to third parties that may want to holding events related to the Convention and will have contract needs in order to put on those events. Once the Convention ends, the Vendor Directory will be provided to our local partners, such as the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Visit Philadelphia, and the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, for future contract needs -- this is why it is critical for businesses to register, even if you do not think your business will be able to offer services needed specifically for the Convention.
To view the Vendor Directory Webinar, please follow the link:


Native American Hired to Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC)
The DNCC has hired Erin Weldon as a Staff Assistant for the DNCC Office of Public Engagement.   Erin is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and a recent graduate of Dartmouth College where she majored in Philosophy.  Erin will play an important role working with the DNCC CEO for Public Engagement and we are excited to have her on the team.        


Voter Suppression in Indian Country
Last April, Republicans in the North Dakota legislature passed a new voter ID law that is now being challenged in court by seven tribal members from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.  North Dakota’s new Voter ID law disproportionately burdens the right of many Native Americans to vote in the state–especially those who live on reservations located in rural parts of the state. 
Under the new law, many Native Americans living on the reservation do not have eligible IDs required to vote and face extraordinary barriers to attain a driver’s license or state ID card.  There are no DMVs located on any reservation in the state and some DMVs may be over 60 miles away. 
Last August, as Democrats celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we recognized that many in this Nation--including Native Americans--still face numerous barriers to vote.  That’s why Democrats in the US Senate introduced the Native American voting rights act that would require each state to establish polling locations on reservations upon request from the tribe, including early voting locations in states that allow votes to be cast prior to Election Day. The bill also directs state election administrators to mail absentee ballots to the homes of all registered voters if requested by the tribe.
DNC Facebook 
Please like and follow the official DNC Native American Facebook page for news and updates from the DNC.


DNC Native American Engagement


DNC Native Americans

DNC Native American Engagement
August 7th, 2015

DNC Native American Council Chair, Rion Ramirez  
DNC Director of Native American Engagement, PaaWee Rivera


Good Afternoon,
Yesterday we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was aimed at ending racial discrimination in our election system.  Yet, 50 years later, Republicans continue to fight against the American people by restricting access to the ballot box, such as voter ID laws, cutting back on early voting periods, and eliminating same-day registration.  These insidious laws are designed to suppress minority participation in elections and we have seen some of the most egregious cases take place in Indian Country. 
Despite the significance of the 50th Anniversary of the VRA as one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in our Nation’s history, Republicans made no mention of the historic anniversary or voting rights at-large during last night’s Republican primary debate.  It is apparent that Republicans would rather talk about Donald Trump and building a wall on the southern border than ensuring that every American has an equal voice in our Democracy. 
The fact the Native Americans face a wide range of barriers to vote is no secret.  President Obama and his Administration have made it a priority to address these barriers.  Earlier this year, the Department of Justice proposed legislation to improve access to voting for American Indians and Alaska Natives.  Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, “As citizens of a nation founded upon the principles of liberty and equality, Native Americans have faced unacceptable barriers to participating in the franchise, a situation aggravated by a history of discrimination, poverty and — significantly — great distances from polling places.
In addition, President Obama has taken unprecedented steps to give Indian Country a voice and strengthen government-to-government relationships between the United States and tribal governments.  In fact this past July, not only did the President visit Choctaw Nation to meet with tribal leaders, but the White House made history by hosting its first ever White House Tribal Youth Conference as a part of their Generation Indigenous initiative.  Over a thousand Native American Youth, representing 230 tribes, from 42 states met with First Lady Michelle Obama, members of the Cabinet, members of Congress, senior White House officials, and federal agency staff to focus on improving the lives of Native youth through new investments and increased engagement.   

Republicans simply don’t get Indian Country’s priorities and they would take us back to the Bush Era policies where we had no voice in the process and no seat at the table.  I hope you can join me at our Native American Council Meeting in Minnesota to discuss how we ensure that Indian Country still has a voice at the highest levels of our government by doing all that we can to elect another Democrat to lead our country in 2016!
What we have been up to!
It’s hard to believe that August is upon us and our annual summer meeting is only a few weeks away.  Over the past two months, we have been active in reaching out to tribal leaders, state democratic parties, state Native American caucuses, Native American elected officials, and other allied organizations. Our objective is to build a vast network of support within the Native American community and developing specific Native American outreach resources.  To that end, if you can help identify leaders in this space, please reach out to us with your suggestions.
We face unique challenges in reaching out to Native Americans given the extreme statistical diversity of our population.  Indian Country is made up of 5.2 million people belonging to 567 federally recognized tribes spread across a vast geographic areas.  Roughly 78% of the Native American population lives off the reservation and 40% is under the age of 25.  Given our demographic challenges, it is important that we organize early on to maximize Native American turnout in 2016.
Below are some of the initiatives underway.  Please reach out to us with suggestions and additional information to help build out our Native American outreach. Thank you.

  • Engage with state parties to discuss specific Native American outreach and organizational plans.  On July 30th, the Association of State Democratic Chairs hosted Chairman Ramirez and PaaWee Rivera as panelists on a webinar to discuss Native American engagement.  The webinar focused on a broad understanding of why the Native American vote is important, how to engage with Native communities, and how the DNC can be a resource for Native American outreach.   
  • Work with the Party Affairs and Delegate Selection Department (PADS) and the Rules and Bylaws Committee to ensure that Native American diversity is included in every state party delegate diversity plan. 
  • Continue to build our surrogate contact list including: tribal leaders, Native state legislators, key community leaders, and prominent Native American figures.
  • Continue to organize the national calendar of important dates. 
  • Develop a comprehensive list of media outlets including: tribal radio stations, tribal newspapers, tribal newstations, and other media outlets.
  • Develop our social media presence on Native American Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms.


DNC Summer August Meeting:  August 26th-29th 2015, Minneapolis MN
Save the Date!  August 26th from 4:00-5:00 PM, the DNC Native American Council will convene for our annual summer meeting.  Chairman Ramirez and PaaWee Rivera will discuss the Party’s Native American engagement plans as we prepare for the Democratic National Convention and general election in 2016.  Later in the week, participants will also hear from all the Democratic presidential candidates as they address the general assembly.  This will be the last time that the DNC will meet before the Convention next July in Philadelphia, so we look forward to seeing you all there!  Please RSVP to PaaWee Rivera at if you plan on attending. 
Democratic Primary Debate Schedule:
1.      October 13, CNN, Nevada
2.      November 14, CBS/KCCI/Des Moines Register, Des Moines, IA
3.      December 19, ABC/WMUR, Manchester, NH
4.      January 17, NBC/Congressional Black Caucus Institute, Charleston, SC
5.      February or March, Univision/Washington Post, Miami, FL
6.      February or March, PBS, Wisconsin
Key Legislation on the Hill
Native American Voting Rights Act- July 30th, Senator Tester (D-MT), Senator Udall (D-NM), Senator Franken (D-MN) introduced a bill to “require each state to establish polling locations on reservations upon request from the tribe, including early voting locations in states that allow votes to be cast prior to Election Day. The bill also directs state election administrators to mail absentee ballots to the homes of all registered voters if requested by the tribe”
Senator Tester Press Release:


Link to Bill:

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