‘No voice’

Unnerved by Trump, Native American woman makes historic run at Congress

Deb Haaland, a Democrat hoping to become the first Native American woman in Congress, in Albuquerque, N.M. (Adria Malcolm/The New York Times)

A record number of Native American women are running for elected office this year, among them Deb Haaland, a New Mexico Democrat who hopes to become the first Native American woman to ever serve in Congress. An enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe and child of military veterans, Haaland overcame a life of poverty, put herself through law school, and culminated her remarkable rise by becoming head of the state Democratic Party in 2015. But Haaland says her work is only beginning. By running for \Congress, she hopes to curb “an epidemic of violence against Native American women,” and to lead a push to fight climate change and expose the way fossil fuel companies have “disregarded tribal sovereignty and rights.”

In an interview with NowThis News, Haaland said that her people had “no voice in Congress,” and that if elected she would push for measures to help Native American women who had experienced violence, as well as co-sponsor a bill to require “federal agencies to report on the number of missing and murdered Native women.” She also said that she participated in the Standing Rock protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline which sought to protect the drinking water of of the Standing Rock Sioux, where hundreds of Native American “water protectors” were arrested and attacked with teargas, mace, dogs, and water cannons in near-freezing weather.

“I returned to New Mexico and led our state Democratic Party to divest from Wells Fargo, a corporation who has benefited financially from the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Haaland said. “The next time when water protectors travel to Washington for a Native Nations Rise march or protests, I’ll be there as a congresswoman to greet them and to fight next to them.”

Haaland says that her own experience as a single mother who subsisted on food stamps to feed herself and her daughter before managing to put herself through law school also allows her to better understand the obstacles facing the state’s poor, Native American or otherwise. She has also spoken out against Trump’s insult of Navajo code talkers, and Republican efforts to drastically cut health care budgets in Native American communities.

“We need more members of Congress with life experience like mine,” Halland told NowThis News.

Besides Haaland, who recently won her state’s pre-primary convention and is considered a “strong contender” to win the June primary, there are three other indigenous women running for Congress, another three aiming to become governors, and 31 shooting for seats in their state legislatures.

Watch excerpts of Haaland’s interview with NowThis News below.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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