Author Marianne Williamson took the stage, escorted by a tribal elder and youth, as she was introduced by Ruth Buffalo, the first Native woman in the North Dakota State Legislature. Williamson was the first presidential candidate to speak at Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa.
Her remarks addressed a need for reparations regarding the violent history Indian Country has faced. Her campaign has called for a deep sense of spiritual healing, a theme she touched upon in nearly every question she was asked.
If elected, she said she will revoke medals given to soldiers at the Wounded Knee massacre, return the Black Hills to the Sioux and remove the portrait of Andrew Jackson that hangs in the White House.
Her presidency will begin with an apology, she said.
“From the depth of my heart… I will apologize and ask for your [Indian Country] forgiveness,” Williamson said.
Cheyenne-River Sioux tribal citizen Marcella LaBeau, who is a 99-year-old veteran of World War II, asked the first question at the forum. Williamson responded by saying that tribal elders should be video recorded in order to document their stories for generations to come.
Williamson was also asked questions about missing murdered and Indigenous women and children, addressing high suicide rates and sacred sites.
When asked about her views on oil and gas companies that want to develop on tribal lands, she said she will not allow that to happen.
“I will not be timid with the use of the power of the presidency,” she said.
People around Indian Country have taken to social media to share their reactions.
While people in the crowd at the Orpheum Theater cheered, others felt Williamson could do more.
Williamson was asked questions from a 7-person panel comprised of tribal leaders and Native youth.
“I want to help this country reconcile,” she said. “I want our children to be taught what really happened.”
Earlier this month, Williamson joined three other candidates who made an appearance at the Meskwaki Powwow in Iowa.
Indian Country Today will have more on the story as the forum progresses.
Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is the Rowland and Pat Journalism Fellow at Indian Country Today and a reporter-producer. Her email is: firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @aliyahjchavez