Northwest Native caucus presents priorities in Philadelphia

File photo of Michelle Obama speaking at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Ava Lowery ERY / FLICKR - TINYURL.COM/HTJJ5RV
Michelle Obama speaks at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. Representatives of nine Pacific Northwest tribes are attending this year’s convention. (Photo by Ava Lowery/Flickr)

A Native American caucus from the Pacific Northwest is in Philadelphia this week to speak for the priorities of Northwest tribes at the Democratic National Convention.

Washington’s Native American Caucus Chair Julie Johnson said it’s possible this year’s 16-member group is the largest Native caucus to ever attend a national party convention.

“I think it’s very important that we network, that we find out what other people are doing and what their priorities are,” Johnson said. “We need to not push but share the Native American priorities.”

The platform they’ve carried with them to Philadelphia includes a number of issues that range from natural resources, to tribal sovereignty, economic development and health care.

“I strongly believe that Native people have to be at the table on voting for what our priorities are,” Johnson said.

The national platform developed at the convention this week will stand as the Democratic Party’s official platform for the next four years.

Johnson, a member of the Lummi tribe in Western Washington, said tribes generally identify more closely with Democratic principles. She and several other sources were not aware of an organized group representing Native Americans at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

“I don’t how many times the Republicans have said they want to get rid of the affordable care act,” Johnson said. “Well, you know our Indian Health Service dollars are in that budget and so what they’re really saying is they want to get rid of our Indian Health Service dollars.”

Patricia Whitefoot is a member of the Yakama Nation and the president of the National Indian Education Association. She also hopes to educate members of the DNC about the major issues affecting tribes.

“This is the way that we as a delegation have to educate the world. People simply do not know about Indian tribes and the unique relationship Indian tribes have with the federal government,” Whitefoot said. “So it’s a whole educational process.”

Other Northwest region tribes represented by caucus members include the Puyallup, Tulalip, Umatilla, Colville, Quinalt, Tsimshian and Yurok.

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