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"Indian Country"

Denise Juneau is running to become 1st Native American woman in Congress

September 20, 2016

Denise Juneau, a Democrat from Montana, is hoping for an upset in the November election, where she is trying to capture her state’s only seat in the House of Representatives. Juneau is riding the waves of a new and growing political movement, which has seen Native Americans running for statewide and federal office at record levels and coming together to protest a proposed pipeline in North Dakota. “It’s awesome,” Juneau told The Guardian. “It’s really exciting, this new surge of people becoming involved. I feel it, particularly when I’m in Indian Country and among young people wanting to work on my campaign. It’s a sea change.”

Juneau became the first Native American woman to be elected to a statewide office in 2008, when she became her state’s education superintendent. “When it became clear that you could change the system from the inside,” she said, “by being present on the [legislative] floor and talking to colleagues, that’s power for a people who have been disregarded and disenfranchised. I have a record of representing all Montanans but also with that special knowledge of how to work in Indian Country.” According to observers, however, it could be difficult to win the race in the traditionally Republican state of Montana. Democrats have not won the House seat since 1994, and she is facing strong opposition from the incumbent Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, strong fundraiser and Trump supporter. But Juneau does not mind being the underdog and points out that she is running a historic campaign in many ways. “The idea that Montana could get its second woman in Congress, its first ‘out’ candidate for federal office and that I could be the first American Indian woman to serve in Congress are very significant things,” she said. “It’s about looking to a future that is more inclusive and reflecting the diversity in this country.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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