Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Politicians Go Courting on Indian Reservations

ROSEBUD INDIAN RESERVATION, S.D., Sept. 17 - Something remarkable happened at the annual powwow of the Rosebud Sioux here last month. Before thousands of American Indians gathered on the prairie grass of this vast reservation on the northern Plains, the tribal president gave Senator Tom Daschle a red feather.

White men rarely receive the feather, a sacred tribal honor bestowed on Indian veterans, and some at the powwow later said they were shocked and offended.

Mr. Daschle, who is locked in a tight and vicious race with his Republican challenger, John Thune, said he was deeply moved, and he was undoubtedly grateful because he also received the influential endorsement of the tribal president, who has a lot of Republican friends.

Indians are a long ignored bloc of voters representing only 1.5 percent of the population. They have begun to show their power in the last few years, helping to defeat a senator in Washington State in 2000, helping to deliver victory to another here in South Dakota here in 2002 and being heavily courted by the presidential candidates in swing states like Arizona and New Mexico.