Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is a Democrat campaigning for his party's nomination. He visited with Indian Country Today editor Mark Trahant on Wednesday.
The interview was wide ranging, exploring many of the issues that impact Indian Country.
Start with symbols. Clearly matter in government. A portrait of Andrew Jackson? Or flags from every tribal nation.
Bullock said in the governor's reception room, "the flags of all of our tribal nations are right next to the U.S. and the Montana flag."
Soon "we'll have the flags of all over tribal nations now flying in front of our state Capitol as well."
He said visitors from around the world ask about those flags and then learn from their visit something about tribes and the unique relationship.
Bullock said in Montana it's important to have Native Americans in government offices across the board, he said it makes any agency better. "I don't care if you're doing weights and measures." There should be Native representation across government.
"I've thought about this at the federal level too, you know," Bullock said. "I want my government to reflect actually the people ... because that only creates a better government."
The Montana governor was able to convince a Republican controlled legislature to re-authorize the expansion of Medicaid. This could be relevant if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act.
"I would love to believe" that Democrats and Republicans would come together to improve Medicaid because "Congress now recognizes what a difference it makes for the entire country. Like when I was trying to expand Medicaid cause some folks wanna turn around and say, well you know this is just like healthcare for individuals that are unwilling to work hard enough. I said, well I've got about seven of my ten in the expansion population that are working. Then I took it one step further, 57 percent of every business in my state has one or more Medicaid enrollees. So they're just unwilling or unable to pay enough to get quality healthcare. I think what it would do to communities large and small all across this country is so significant that I'd love to think the Congress isn't so broken that they'd actually reauthorize it."
Then Bullock added: "But that's another reason why I think that candidly we need somebody new in the White House and we need a new Congress."
Bullock said he would work to improve the framework for nation-to-nation consultation should he be elected.
"I was asked ... Where's your plan for Indian country? And I can talk about a whole lot of things that I'd like to do," such as fixing broken promises or reforms called for by the Commission on Civil Rights. "But if you're actually going to have a real plan for Indian Country, you can talk about what you want to do as a candidate. But if you're not actually doing nation-to-nation consultation and saying we build this together, then you probably don't fully understand or appreciate the importance" and how that "creates a path forward."
Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter - @TrahantReports