By Cheryl Cedar Face
MHA Times Editor
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently diverged from typical campaign stops and held a community meeting on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Addressing a crowd of over 800 tribal members from across the Northern Plains, Sanders vowed to renew the relationship between the U.S. government and Native American tribes.
The event, held on May 12, drew attendees from numerous reservations in North and South Dakota, including Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribal members.
Over the course of the 2016 presidential election season, Sanders has devoted considerable, and unmatched, attention to issues concerning Native American citizens.
“We need to fundamentally change the relationship between the U.S. government and the Native American community,” Sanders said.
“We owe a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid,” he continued.
To thundering applause, Sanders addressed inadequate healthcare, poor education opportunities, and crumbling infrastructure as key issues he would address as president. Perhaps most importantly, Sanders promised to uphold treaties made with Native American tribes across the country.
“Promises were made, treaties were signed, and they were not kept,” Sanders said. “If I am elected, we will keep those promises.”
“We’ve got a lot of work to do but nothing ever good happens if people give up,” Sanders said. “You’ve got to stand up and be involved in the political process.”
Sanders also promoted a federal jobs program, a $15 dollar an hour minimum wage, better healthcare which would include more doctors on Indian Reservations, lower costs for prescription drugs, increasing efficacy in coping with alcohol and drug abuse, and improving mental health treatment. Sanders’ promise to make public universities tuition-free was met with huge applause by younger audience members.
Following his stops in South Dakota, Sanders held rallies in Fargo and Bismarck. Prairie Rose Seminole welcomed Sanders to the Fargo rally on Friday, May 13. Seminole also presented Sanders with a ribbon shirt made by Norma Baker-Flying Horse.