Montana Governor Steve Bullock was the fourth and final candidate to speak on Monday at the Frank LaMere Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa.
He joined the forum through a video conference call, saying he needed to be in Montana for a family event. It was to honor his his nephew, Jeremy was killed 25-years ago at a school playground. He was 11-years old when he was unintentionally shot by a schoolmate.
Bullock said he is grateful that the organizers of the forum were able to let him speak at the event, despite his absence.
Through his remarks, Bullock referred to his experience helping tribal communities as the governor. He addressed health epidemics, high suicide rates, consultation with tribes, violence against Native women and the Indian Child Welfare Act.
One theme Bullock maintained: he has a proven-track record when working with tribal nations.
On his first trip as a presidential candidate, he says he purposefully visited the Meskwaki Nation in Iowa. Earlier this month, he was also one of three candidates who made appearances at their annual powwow.
“Whether you’re in Iowa or Oklahoma or Alaska or Montana, you [Indian Country] should know that the next President of the United States is going to listen, is going to consult and is going to work in partnership to make all of our lives better,” he said.
Bullock spent time addressing the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women. He referred to Hanna Harris, a 21-year-old, Northern Cheyenne woman who went missing in 2013. A short time later, she was found murdered.
“I wish Hanna Harris was unique to the Northern Cheyenne or unique to Montana,” Bullock said. He vowed to address the issue, if elected.
The last issue raised to Bullock was about the Indian Child Welfare Act. He said he would do “everything possible” to ensure Native children are kept with Native families. A key part of doing so, he says, is through the appointment of judges.
He said he has always appointed judges who have a good understanding of Native tribes. In particular, he says he has always been diligent about asking them questions to measure their understanding of Native tribes before their appointment.
At the end of the event, Bullock shared that he was endorsed today by the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, a consortium of tribes throughout Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
Following his remarks, Bullock spoke with Indian Country Today to reiterate that the next president should take tribal consultations seriously.
Bullock also shared that his campaign will release a policy program on Native communities in the “upcoming weeks.”
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