“A Strong Native American Voter Turn-out in North Dakota Could Affect United States Senate Majority”

The United States Senate race in North Dakota has become one of the most contested races in the country. This race could come down to a matter of hundreds of votes in a few remote reservation counties to decide this important race. It has become a potential “hold” for the Democrats, when only a few months ago it was considered an easy pick-up for the Republicans by having first term, multi-millionaire member of Congress, Rick Berg, make the jump up to the U.S. Senate from the House of Representatives. Over the summer this has become an extremely competitive race, not just because of Berg’s extreme views being put under the microscope, one of those views was ND House Bill 1489, which would make abortion a class AA felony, even in the case of rape or incest. The race has tightened because of the surprising grass roots approach of Democratic standard bearer, former North Dakota Attorney General, Heidi Heitkamp.

The race has gone from a Berg + 9 to a statistical dead heat with some polls showing either Berg or Heitkamp in the lead. Millions of dollars in out-of-State money has been pouring into North Dakota from both sides as well as independent PACs. Berg is the 13th wealthiest member of Congress and is tapping some of his own wealth to graduate from the House to the Senate after less than one term in office.

In 2008, President Obama won 13 of the 53 counties, 8 of those 13 counties are part of the 5 Indian Reservations in North Dakota. So in a tight U.S. Senate race and a throw away Presidential race (President Obama lost North Dakota by 9 points in 2008 and is trailing Romney by 14, 54-40, in 2012), getting a strong turn-out from the 8 counties on the five reservations plus a strong Native turn-out in the cities of Fargo and Grand Forks with a population of 3,200 , could keep the Senate seat in the Democratic column.

In a Frontline story from 2008, PBS nationally Native Americans vote democrat by as much at 95%. Some statistics from the 1996 Senate race in Montana between Democrat Jon Tester and the GOP candidate Conrad Burns had some Tribal counties voting for the democrat at an 83% margin, if those same statics bear out in North Dakota, the Native American vote could be the deciding factor.

There are five federally recognized Indian Tribes in North Dakota (Standing Rock Sioux, Three Affiliated, Turtle Mountain Ojibwe, Spirit Lake Sioux, and Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate), the total Native American population is 36,591 who identify as American Indian only, which is 5.4 % of the total population of 672,592. Others that identify as mixed, including American Indian is 42,996 or 6.4% of the population. The telling data is that 55% of the Native-only population live on the five reservations in North Dakota while the others live off-reservation, this is a very important constituency for either party.

One of the most important ways that Indian Country can gauge how a candidate will treat us after they are elected is; do they have a Native American platform on their campaign website? Have they visited the Indian Reservations and met with Tribal leaders? What is their historical voting record on Native American issues?

One of the candidates in North Dakota Senate race has a platform on Native American issues, Heidi Heitkamp. She has met with the Tribes and appointed a Native American to her campaign staff, attorney Diane Johnson, a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes to assist in her Native American outreach. Heitkamp has also stood up for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and she promises to make sure a farm bill is passed for the farmers of North Dakota. She is also emphasizing her opposition to the GOP Ryan Budget which has sharp reductions in federal spending which will affect Indian Country more severely because of the high unemployment and lack of opportunities on the reservation. While the National unemployment rate has dropped to 7.8%, the unemployment rate in Indian Country is anywhere from 20% to 70% plus. Berg on the other hand has supported the Ryan Budget, which would negatively affect his Native American constituency.

Berg currently does not have a Native American link on his House page nor any information on his Berg for Senate website discussing his position on issues that are important to his Native American constituency. Of the hundreds of statements and releases he has issued in Congress, only one joint statement with Senators Hoeven and Conrad about the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe sex abuse issue, dealt with Native Americans. Requests to Berg’s office have been answered and hopefully Berg’s position on Native American issues will be forthcoming and a follow-up article is anticipated.

For the Democrat, former Attorney General Heitkamp to win, she is going to have to hold her own in North Dakota against Berg for the non-Indian vote and stay within a percentage point or two of the estimated 315,000 votes that are typically cast in presidential election years, and that Heitkamp can overwhelm by winning the Native American vote with 80% plus (which tend to vote for Democrats in the 80-95% range), which could help her overcome a 2-3% deficit. She will also need the Native Americans to vote early and in higher percentages than they have in previous elections.

For Berg is going to have to reach out to the Native American population like South Dakota’s GOP Senator John Thune. Granting access to Native Americans, having an open office and open ear to their issues, as well as appointing a Native American in his office and create outreach programs to adequately represent his Native American constituency.

Historically Native Americans have faced extreme prejudice when it comes to voter suppression, with States like South Dakota preventing Native Americans from voting until 1975, and the pending lawsuit in Montana where three Tribes are suing the State to give access to remote Native American tribes for early and absentee voting. North Dakota Native Americans are well aware of what is transpiring in Indian Country, and in this election they have the opportunity to impact the race for the United States Senate. While other Native Americans across the Country have the opportunity to let their voices be heard loud and clear and impact races in Montana, Washington, and New Mexico, we are not going to sit back and let others make decisions for us that affect us, and we will vote.

SOURCE  Theron “Scarlet Raven” Thompson is an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate (Dakota Sioux) of the Lake Traverse Reservation.

Responses to "North Dakota Native Americans Could Decide U.S. Senate Seat"

  1. Anonymous says:


  2. Anonymous says:

    Russell Mead endorsed Ron Paul. I will write him also. I want representation not over spending oligarchy that line their own pockets, which is both Romney and Obama.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Please do homework before making uninformed satements...maybe line Romney's pocket but not President Obama's.

  4. Anonymous says:

    i beleave the people need to make a change and understand that the rich banker party liners will never help you . they are only there to protect there money ! Ron Paul is so bold as to say i don't need a pinchen and will not take a pay check the 1st 2 years , now that tell me this guy wants to fix the problems , but no he's not folloing the party rules , and they egnor the people choice and push the banker the cause of our problems , they did the same thing to FDR he was a Republican but he felt compelled to help the poor and the working class , so he became a Demi but conservitive . we need this a moderit . someone who will just say no to those speacal intrest groups who line the pockets of those who are suppose to be working for us ! please VOTE

  5. Anonymous says:

    Frankilin D. Roosevelt was never a Republican at any point in his life. He was an agressive Progressive and did more destruction to our Constitution than any President until Barack Obama.

    People must understand who the Democrats are and they have all but decimated the Indian nation but hideous methods. As usual, they have not been able to make their agendas known otherwise they would be unelectable.

    Look at the poverty on the reservations; that is a look into just what the Democrat policies breed. Keeping the indian population on the reservations has allowed the Democrats to deny even the most basic liberties of the American. On the reservations much of the population lives in abject poverty while off the reservation, many have achieved notable success.

    The indian population needs to make one more stand and free itself from the clutches of tyranny and the government and vote for the party established by freed slaves, teh Republican Party. Although the party may not be perfect, it is the only alternative available to stop the tyranny and established what is necessary for personal growth and prosperity.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I don't think Native Americans can be fooled. They need gas and job opportunities as well. Obama is just Hugo Chavez on steroids...let him go. We do not have to live like this. Obama is the divider and has no integrity.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I also thought Obama would be good for us and i even helped campaign for him on my rez, but all seems to br for nothing. we as native americans are still feeling the worst. We are strong when it comes to that, we are still here on mother earth and strong. But we need to come together as a people, a voice , like the blacks did when they got their freedom. We shouldnt stand for any of the government bull ----. We got the world to back us, what they gonna do kill us all. They already tried that so we should start this a new way get a better president. who will back us. We as Native americans should be living good and have jobs after what we went through these past hundred years or so. And they still taking our oil from our people like in Newtown North Dakota. It was sposed to in god we trust but the corrupt rich whites in the world actually tell us what to do. or kill us. so be let them kill the world. i got your back they doing it any way..... FREEDOM..... IS ALL WE NEED AND WANT.... A PERIOD OF JUBALEE, if thats how you spell it. FORGIVENESS N FORGET ALL DEBTS.. is what i yhink we need. Dont get me wrong rapists n child molesters n killers need to locked up. The more laws the gvernment makes the more debt we get. We need some good old fashion justice and that means put hte government in check and vote what we want as a nation as a world.

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