Iowa's powwow trail had a campaign stop

Senator Cory Booker, Governor Steve Bullock and author Marianne Williamson visit Meskwaki Powwow #NativeVote20

Three presidential candidates reached out to powwow goers Saturday and talked about tribal sovereignty, reparations and removing Andrew Jackson from the White House's Oval Office.

Across the state most of the Democratic candidates for president were at the Iowa State Fair, but three hopefuls made the one hour-and 10-minute drive to the Meskwaki Powwow in Tama, Iowa.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, and author Marianne Williamson spoke shortly after grand entry at 1 pm and 7 pm.

Indian Country Today conducted individual interviews with each of the candidates after they addressed the crowd. Here are takeaways of their speeches and interviews.

Governor Steve Bullock

Bullock was the first candidate to speak at the Meskwaki Powwow. He gave remarks after 1 pm grand entry on Saturday. He spoke of his experience as governor, a place home to seven tribal nations, as being imperative in understanding the unique role of tribal governments.

“My time has really made me understand government-to-government relations. It is two sovereigns,” he said. “When I am meeting with a tribal chairman, I’m meeting with the head of a sovereign nation.”

After his speech, Governor Bullock, accompanied by his family, visited the Meskwaki tribal history tent.

In his individual interview with Indian Country Today, Bullock said this was his second trip to the Meskwaki Indian Settlement. He referred to being a frequent member of the powwow circuit in Montana, mentioning his love of frybread. He cited previous work in Montana where he supported language preservation programs, addressed youth suicide and vowed to investigate the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

His campaign has accepted the invitation to attend the Native American presidential forum on August 19 and 20 in Sioux City, Iowa. He says his campaign is working on an agenda plan for Indigenous communities and will plan to announce it, “at some point.”

Marianne Williamson

Author Marianne Williamson spoke for approximately 20 minutes after Bullock on Saturday. Her speech was about reconciliation between tribes and the federal government.

“The first thing I will do as President of the United States, the moment I get into the Oval Office, I will take that picture of Andrew Jackson down,” she said. “He is an insult. I am not a Native American and it insults me.”

Williamson told Indian Country Today she has found a “graciousness and generous spirit” for which Native people have been eager to share about their culture. She wishes to learn more, she said. “The more I know, the more I can speak, the more I can articulate, and if made president, the more I can do.”

Her campaign has accepted the invitation to participate in the Frank LaMere Presidential Forum on August 19 and 20 in Sioux City, Iowa. Her campaign has announced its policy agenda on Indigenous communities titled, Native American Justice. It includes the return of the Black Hills, halting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and protecting Native religious freedom, amongst other things.

Senator Cory Booker

Booker addressed a crowded arena just after 8pm on Saturday night. His one-minute remarks embodied his belief in, “power in the people.”

After his remarks, Booker took photos with constituents, participated in an honoring song, and learned about Meskwaki tribal history in their museum’s exhibit tent.

The Booker campaign declined the invitation to the upcoming Frank LaMere Presidential Forum. The reason remains unspecified, however, Booker had a generic message for tribal leaders. He said: “We need people [in office] that have a deep connection and empathy to disadvantaged peoples who are going to be our next president.”

The Meskwaki Powwow, nicknamed, “Where East meets West” celebrated its 105 year anniversary, this weekend. They are the only federally recognized tribe that is based in Iowa. 

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Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is the Rowland and Pat Journalism Fellow at Indian Country Today and a reporter-producer. Her email is: achavez@indiancountrytoday.com. On Twitter: @aliyahjchavez

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