As they begin to develop Indian policy proposals, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's strong record on government-to-government relations with tribal nations stands as a beacon. Shortly after declaring his candidacy, Richardson told Indian Country Today that if elected president, he would install a cabinet-level secretary of Indian Affairs. Given his record, this is less lip service than intention. In 2005 he appointed Jemez Pueblo native Benny Shendo Jr. as New Mexico's first secretary of Indian Affairs. It is the only state in the country that has a cabinet secretary and a department of Indian Affairs. Spoken commitment followed by action is the key to winning the increasingly critical Native vote.Apparently, providing quiet advise goes only so far. Indigenous Democratic Network (INDN's List) has scheduled a candidates forum, Prez on the Rez, for August 23rd at the Morongo reservation in southern California. It is the first such forum to be held in Indian country, and leaders from the federally recognized tribes will be present. All of the Democratic presidential candidates were invited to address the forum. However, Obama and Edwards have not agreed to attend--and according to the INDN's List website, Hillary has refused.
Thankfully, Bill Richardson promptly accepted.
Are our First Americans of such little value to these politicians? It smacks of the sort of arrogance displayed by Republicans when they refused invitations to address national Latino and African American forums this year.