Thursday, May 08, 2008

Native superdelegates support Obama - Rapid City Journal

Native Superdelegate Kalyn Free, one of the most influential women in Native American politics, announced on Monday her support for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

Her endorsement brings solid consensus in support of Obama among all Native superdelegates to the Democratic National Convention this August in Denver.

"I'm seeing a rebirth and reawakening in this country to political activism," Free, a DNC at-large member, said Monday. "We're seeing something in this country we haven't seen since the late '60s. We're seeing record numbers of people getting involved. The catalyst for all this, the common denominator, is Sen. Barack Obama. He has lit a fire in many hearts across the country."

The Choctaw woman from Oklahoma said she embraces Obama's commitment to bring Native people into the national political discussion, including a pledge to invite tribes to an annual White House summit and to include Natives in his administration.

Free is one of only three Natives nationwide who have risen to the top voting ranks as a superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention.

Nebraska's Frank LaMere, also a DNC superdelegate, announced his support of Obama in February. Superdelegate Margarett Campbell, vice chairwoman of the Montana Democratic Party, pledged support to Obama in April, but recanted after party rules prevented her from backing any candidate until after the state's June 3 primary.

Free, the founder of INDN's List, is at the forefront of mobilizing Native voters across the country. She created the Indigenous Democratic Network in 2005 as a way to bring Native people into local, state and national political races as candidates and voters.

"Kalyn is an effective and compassionate leader in the Native American community, and I'm proud to have her support," Obama said in a prepared statement. "I admire the work she has done to build a grass-roots movement, elect Native Americans to public office and mobilize voters in tribal communities to become part of the political process.

"And as president, I will work with tribal leaders and Kalyn to ensure that they have a true partner in the White House. With Kalyn's support, we're going to bring about real change -- not just for the Native American community, but for all Americans."

LaMere, a Winnebago from Nebraska, and Free have both said the Democratic Party is offering two good candidates.

"The party rules and our democracy allow us as superdelegates to choose who we will vote for, and we have chosen Barack Obama," LaMere said Monday. "I'm pleased to have done that for Indian people across the country who see Obama as the New Deal that we desperately need."

Obama will usher in a new era for all people, Free said.

"In order to win the White House, we clearly need to reach across party lines. He can clearly do that. He can attract Republicans. He can attract independents. But more importantly, he is bringing people who otherwise wouldn't be involved in the political process, to get out there and vote, to get organized and to do the work at the grass-roots level, whether it's in the inner cities, rural America, or in our case, on Indian reservations."

"The Indian vote alone in this election can swing the election," Free said. "I say 2008 can clearly be the year of the Indian. Indian Country can decide who is sitting in the White House."