The rarely-publicized meetings are one piece of what Indian Country leaders describe as an unprecedented effort this year by the presidential field to pay heed to this small and historically overlooked voting bloc. In the last two weeks alone, Obama, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, campaigned on Indian reservations across South Dakota and Montana as Sen. John McCain met with tribal leaders in New Mexico.
Comprising less than 2 percent of the U.S. population and concentrated mostly outside key primary states in past election years, Native Americans are seeing an uptick in prominence because of political and geographic realities.
The prolonged primary season has pushed the contest into states with larger Native communities—states that typically voted too late to attract much attention from presidential candidates. With the emergence of the Mountain West as the newest general election battleground, the Native vote is more highly sought-after than ever since it has proven to be mobilized and instrumental in recent statewide races.
And, what will Native Americans get for voting for Senator Obama?
He hosted a conference call with 100 tribal leaders, where he pledged adequate funding in his administration for healthcare, education and other programs. “Honoring sovereignty means maintaining an open door relationship. I want all of your tribes to have a voice in developing my policies,” Obama said, according to the Seminole Tribune.
He released a platform that went a step further than Clinton by promising to appoint an American Indian policy advisor to his senior White House staff.
What about some of that casino money in Obama’s clean campaign coffers?