Historic wins: First-ever Native women elected to Congress, Lt. Governor
It was a historic Election Day on Nov. 6 for Native Americans: Two states elected the first-ever Native American women to Congress, while another voted in its first Native American lieutenant governor.
In New Mexico, Deb Haaland of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe defeated Republican Janice E. Arnold-Jones in the race for one the state’s open seats.
“New Mexico made history tonight,” Haaland told a crowd of supporters on election night at the Albuquerque Hotel, as reported by Indian Country Today. “I want to thank every single person who poured their heart and soul into this campaign. Congress has never heard a voice like mine, but when the 116th session of Congress begins, they will hear my voice.”
Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids of the Ho-Chunk Nation also made history on Nov. 6 by becoming not only the state’s first Native American elected, but its first openly gay congresswoman. Davis unseated Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder, the four-term incumbent.
“From the beginning, this campaign has been built on bringing new leaders to the table, and new voices to the table. And I am so honored to stand here today knowing I will fill that role for our community in January,” said Davids, according to the Associated Press. “What is uncommon, until now, is to have those voices and those stories and those experiences truly reflected in our federal government, in Congress and the Senate.”
The election of Haaland and Davids doubles the number of Native Americans in Congress as they join two Republicans from Oklahoma: Tom Cole of the Chickasaw Nation and Markwayne Mullin of the Cherokee Nation.
Meanwhile, in Minnesota, Democrat Peggy Flanagan of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe was elected lieutenant governor alongside running mate and now-Governor Tim Walz.
“Today, (Tim Walz), our families, and I are humbled and grateful to stand before Minnesotans statewide,” tweeted Flanagan. “We are thankful for the hard work and support everyone has shown. Today, we continue the journey of making #OneMinnesota a reality.”
But it was not all wins for Native American candidates this election season.
Idaho Democrat Paulette Jordan of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe lost her bid to become the first Native American governor to Republican Lt. Gov. Brad Little.
“We asked about your struggles and your hopes for our Idaho, and you shared your stories, and I heard you,” Jordan said to supporters on election night, according to the Idaho Press. “I heard you and I will always hear you. … You are the heart of our movement, that brings a government that looks like you, that understands you and that welcomes you. … We are building that movement right now.”
On Oct. 15, Hung A Lel Ti Chairman Irvin Jim Jr. spoke at the dedication of a five-mile stretch of Highway 88 from the California state line in Alpine County to veterans of the Vietnam War.