Growing up in Minnesota, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, said it was mandatory to understand the cultures of the tribes within the state. As a 17-year-old applying to colleges, she wrote about the book, ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,’ to answer a question prompt about the most important book in your life.
Melanie Benjamin, chief executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, introduced Klobuchar at the Frank LaMere Presidential Forum and said she has fought for Indian Country since the first day she began representing the state as senator.
“We are very proud that Amy is our senator in the state of Minnesota because we know we can depend on her to get the job done,” Benjamin said. “She understands tribal sovereignty, she understands where the boundaries of the reservations are and she is an excellent advocate for our voice.”
Throughout her career, as a county attorney before being elected to the Senate and since her election, Klobuchar said she understands the importance of tribal consultation on issues facing Native communities.
“I can promise you, as your president, I will respect sovereignty and I will strongly believe in government-to-government negotiations and consultation,” Klobuchar said to applause from the crowd at the Orpheum Theater.
Over the course of her time in front of the seven-person panel comprised of tribal leaders from across the country, Klobuchar touched on a number of issues; from missing and murdered indigenous women and education to the 2020 Census and infrastructure.
In an exchange with Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier, the senator from Minnesota was personally invited their reservation to observe what Frazier described as “shameful neglect” of their infrastructure and road repair needs.
Frazier said the federal government can spend millions of dollars on the Fourth of July parade but can’t provide funding to fix roads on the reservation.
“Till I see something happen, I have no faith in the federal government,” Frazier said. “We’ve been lied to enough and that needs to stop. It’s just all lip service.”
Responding to Frazier’s claim that nobody in Washington, D.C. cares about the issues his people face, Klobuchar was quick to say she does.
“I care and I think Melanie would vouch for me,” Klobuchar said referring to Mille Lacs Band chairwoman.
Klobuchar went on to explain two solutions as to how, as president, she could help fix infrastructure issues facing Native communities. The first was an immediate fix with her $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which she said is completely paid for by adjusting some of the tax cuts President Donald Trump gave large corporations.
Secondly, she spoke of the importance of taking on climate change, noting that the flooding Frazier spoke of has been getting worse.
“Our country didn’t have the same respect for our environment that your tribal community has,” Klobuchar said.
During her response, a heckler in the crowd shouted at her about the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, although it was difficult to hear exactly what she was saying. In an interview with Indian Country Today after the panel, Klobuchar said she is supportive of the governor’s work to delay the appeal of the pipeline for tribal and environmental input.
“I think we need to move away from fossil fuels,” Klobuchar said, “I’ve made that very clear that we need to move to a cleaner environment.”
One unique and interesting way Klobuchar would bring Natives into the fold if she were elected president would be having “Minnesota’s Sioux Chef,” Sean Sherman, invited to the White House to cook a state dinner.
“I think that is well deserved,” Klobuchar said with a smile. “I think uplifting the Native American culture, what a change that would be from a president who’s been sending out mean tweets and mocking people.”
COVER PHOTO - Sen. Amy Klobuchar listens as 99 year old veteran Marcella LaBeau asks a question (Photo by Taylor Notah)
Kolby KickingWoman is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is Blackfeet/Gros Ventre from the great state of Montana and currently reports and lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - firstname.lastname@example.org