June 2nd, 2008
10:41 AM ET

The Native American vote - "gonna make a difference"

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/02/art.nativeamerican.obama.jpg caption="A young supporter tries to get a look at Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., arriving at a rally in Crow Agency, Mont., Monday, May 19, 2008."]

Program Note: See Randi’s full report on the Native American vote tonight on AC360° at 10p.

Randi Kaye
360° Correspondent

It was my first trip to Montana… and it was just as beautiful as I had imagined it would be. Rolling hills. Open plains. Lots of horses. That was until we arrived at the Crow Reservation in Crow Agency, Montana. This is where about 8000 members of the Crow Tribe live and it is one of the poorest areas of the country. We meet Darrin Old Coyote, our guide, and it doesn’t take long to see why these people want a president who is willing to help them.

Old Coyote tells me some families on the reservation are having to choose between food and fuel. They are jobless and hopeless. Why? Old Coyote says, “We as Indian people feel like a third world country in the U.S. A lot of our problems are basically forgotten.” Old Coyote says they want a president who will acknowledge their hardships, and on this reservation, that appears to be Barack Obama.

Obama has met behind closed doors with Crow tribal leaders, as he’s done with many other tribes. These meetings are not publicized, but Obama’s campaign knows the tribal leaders have the power to sway thousands of votes. In general, Native Americans tend to vote as families, in large blocs. And they traditionally and overwhelmingly vote Democrat! Obama was adopted by the Crow tribe during a recent swing through here. He even got a Crow Indian name, which translated, means, “one who helps people throughout the land.”

Both Obama and Hillary Clinton have made promises to give Native Americans more of a voice in Washington. Obama says he will honor broken treaty obligations and appoint an American Indian policy advisor to his senior white house staff. Clinton has made similar promises. But the people I met on this reservation seem to be more drawn to Obama because they feel like he’s one of them. His own African American heritage helps him understand their struggle. In fact, he told them during his visit, “I know what it's like to not always have been respected or have been ignored and I know what it's like to struggle.”

In Montana, Native Americans make up more than 6 percent of the population. In years past, they haven’t shown up in great numbers at the polls because they have always felt devalued and never really trusted the federal government. Not this time. So many are expected to vote, it brought one woman we spoke with to tears.

A choked up Jennifer Flatlip told me, “It’s the first time. First time that we are going to be empowering somebody we think can make a difference. Our voices are gonna be huge. Our votes gonna make a difference.”

We’ll see if she’s right tomorrow. Primary day June 3rd.

Filed under: Native American vote • Randi Kaye
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Shirley, NC

    Native americans, this land is your land, God gave it to you and the white man took it from you, but what goes around comes around. With Obama as president, help is on the way!

    June 3, 2008 at 1:37 am |
  2. Raymond Duke Texas

    I don't know how they will vote. They are content to live on reservations. As my father and my indian grandmother use to say, you have got to move with progress. The only progress I have heard of them maiking is new casino's that don't seem to get down to the whole tribe, just a few at the top. It is kind of like the aid we send to africa. Hell they may vote or they may not . I guess it really comes down to who their leaders can get the most from.

    June 3, 2008 at 12:39 am |
  3. Mona Davila

    Alright, this is no surprise – Bill can't keep his zipper up. If this guy doesn't have a bad case of sex addiction I don't know what else to call it.... What concerns me is how the heck does Hillary maintain such focus on her career goals while her soul mate is running amuck. If Bill's bad behavior is not the least bit distracting while attempting to stay on task at work (e.g., campaigning for the job of head cheese) then her moral compass is badly in need of some reconfiguring. Hey, it least we know what her priorities are – It's all about what Hillary wants. How could anyone consider her as a running mate with Bill being part of that package deal. And why is the media reaction to this Vanity Fair "unflattering" article only focusing on Bill's retort rather than on the content of the article???

    June 3, 2008 at 12:13 am |
  4. Melba Phillips

    HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, IS FOR THE NATIVE AMERICAN PEOPLE. Don't be misled by Barrick Hussain Obama's split tongue.
    CNN is favoring him and this is why the people is not hearing her.
    She knows how to run our Nation, the American People needs to pray.
    Native Americans has been fooled in a lot of ways but, as a native American I can see right through this Barrack Hussain Obama man.
    My message to my sisters and brothers of Indian heritage be wise and vote for HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON some one, who we all can trust.

    June 3, 2008 at 12:08 am |
  5. Ken from Crow Country, Montana

    I would like to express our gratitude with humble endeavors. We were blessed with hope and tenacity when Senator Barack Obama announced he would visit the Crow Indian Reservation. Many of us were scrambling with excitement for Monday May 19, 2008. Obama speaks of CHANGE and has been the direction of the Crow Tribe for the past several years. We are fighting poverty and looking to future developments and growth of our reservation economy. We understand our situation as well as our issues ....Obama's visit was confirmation we are heading in the right direction. We hope the rest of Indian Country across the nation was able to share our grateful experience with a presidential candidate for the United States of America. We were honored for Senator Barack Obama to visit the Crow Indian Reservation in Crow Agency, Montana. Go OBAMA!

    June 2, 2008 at 11:43 pm |
  6. Courtney, Fl

    @Brian. pure ignorance. with McCain your hard earned tax dollars go to more death and destruction in Iraq and who knows where the next war will be. also the people who make up the majority of the population are the same people who make up the majority of people using government assistance.

    June 2, 2008 at 11:35 pm |

    It is amazing how people that don't live on the reservation know who can do what for us. Give me a break! Bill Clinton did a lot for the Pine Ridge Reservation when he was in office. Our college would not be here if it wasn't for him not to mention the empowerment zone. Obama is unproven and the Clintons are not. Bill came to Pine Ridge when he was still in office. The only seated President that had since Rovesvelt. I WILL NOT VOTE FOR OBAMA IN NOVEMBER!!!!It is either Hillary for me or McCain.

    June 2, 2008 at 11:18 pm |
  8. Charlee Dawkins

    What I like about Sen Obama's claims is accountibility. He has a web
    site that has many primacies. I believe that the intention is to
    organize a active group voters who will be able to keep he and his administration focused on those primacies. The people in these
    areas who have been forgotten by previous vote seekers aware of
    their Campaign promises. Unlike other Administration s I do not believe Sen Obama will forget them

    June 2, 2008 at 10:48 pm |
  9. Linda

    Way to go great American warriors ! It's time your voices were heard.

    June 2, 2008 at 10:07 pm |
  10. Sherice

    Brian, You should do more research on who receives more handouts. Where I live, there are more caucasians who receive more handouts than african americans or indians. I'm african american and indian descent ( cherokee) , going to school (3.75 gpa) for medical coding, and come from a long line of African Americans that have worked until retirement. Never been in trouble with the law, go to church, and volunteer for kids , funerals, etc. So don't tell me that just because I'm black ( or my family) that we don't work hard also to contribute to taxes. Get to know the person for their integrity , character, and wisdom before you pass your lame judgement on any race. A mind is a terrible thing to waste!

    June 2, 2008 at 9:41 pm |
  11. Gary Chandler in Canada

    freedom of speech is only for USA citizens???
    and Puerto Ricans?

    June 2, 2008 at 6:55 pm |
  12. Jan from Wood Dale IL

    I'm sure you'll include in your report that there is a Bureau of Native American affairs which is part of the Dept. of the Interior. The Bureau is responsible for the land trusts that have been established for the Native Americans, and has provided educational services for more than 48,000 Native Americans.

    I am curious to know if there has been any resolution to the 2004 class action lawsuit brought by Native American representatives against the U.S. government?

    June 2, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  13. Larry

    Just what we need, Canadians telling us who to vote for; they should stick to their own elections

    June 2, 2008 at 5:46 pm |
  14. Kim

    Brian, don't you think suggesting that African-Americans and American Indians as a whole rely on handouts is stereotyping to the max?

    Many minority groups have been discriminated against in the past and not given the same opportunities and access to quality education, health care or well-paying jobs. That's the main reason why so many of them are poor and why they have every reason to feel neglected by our government and our politicians.

    Essentially telling them that they are lazy and that it's their own fault is addinf insult to injury.

    That said, many of the educational, scientific, technological and health care programs that are badly needed can only be paid for by using tax dollars. If that means the average American will have better chances to get a good job and keep it, to stay healthy and see his children grow up with more opportunities, I am sure many people see this as worth paying taxes for.

    June 2, 2008 at 4:54 pm |
  15. Barry IL

    Native Americans are the most forgotten segment of the US society. They deserve attention from whoever will be the next president of the USA.

    June 2, 2008 at 4:52 pm |
  16. Brian from California

    It is becoming amazing to me how obvious the answer to many of the biased liberal media questions have become, especially those from Cafferty here on CNN.

    The quesiton should be, do you American Indians want bigger government and higher taxes? For a group that relies on handouts like African americans and Indians, then their answer is obviously Barack Obama.

    For those of us that have to work hard for every penny we get in life and don't want to be taxed to the hilt by government, then the answer is Hillary or McCain.

    June 2, 2008 at 3:28 pm |
  17. Rahni, Connecticut

    Native American should have a voice in Washington and that voice will be Barack Obama. Native Americans watched their lands and their country stolen from them from the European Conquerors. Unfortunately, these people with rich cultures and traditions now live in the most poorest and remote areas of the United States call reservations. Not all reservations have the privilege of casinos.

    Rahni, Connecticut

    June 2, 2008 at 2:12 pm |
  18. carmen

    Randi, very moving and what it should be all about - a call to action and a proper response. Many are hoping for a new day. You described the sentiments perfectly

    June 2, 2008 at 1:48 pm |
  19. Kent Fitzsimmons,Illinois

    They will make a difference. Bill Clinton had the chance to help them and did not. B Clinton had the chance to pardon imprisoned Native American leaders and did nothing. Obama will win big in these last primaries.................

    June 2, 2008 at 1:19 pm |
  20. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Barack Obama is the best choice for the naitive Americans after all the Republican administration stole and bribe them. They haven't forgotten and won't forget.

    June 2, 2008 at 1:02 pm |
  21. Sharon from Indy

    So why is the Crow Reservation one of the poorest areas in the country?

    Many on the reservation are unemployed, under educated, under skilled and face discrimination within their own tribe against women and "half breeds." Most children are raised in single-parent homes.

    It is just another pocket of poverty that is invisible to many people in America. But I guess for one day, their "6 per cent" voices will be heard.

    Come Wednesday though, their voices will fade into the landscape like many minorities/powerless individuals who struggle everyday to survive in this country. The voices of the Crow will probably remain silent until the next presidential candidate can market a winning vote or photo "op" for political spin.

    June 2, 2008 at 12:57 pm |
  22. Bev C NY

    It is truly a shame what the white man has done to the Native Americans. Out of all the minority groups, they had and still have it the worst. Our government still does nothing for them. Having said that, I also wish their own people would divide the wealth they have from the casinos. The casinos are supposed to help all Native Americans, not just a few.

    June 2, 2008 at 12:46 pm |
  23. Kim

    This is a huge sign of trust and I hope Obama will honor it if he wins the general election. I like the fact that the meetings weren't publicized.

    June 2, 2008 at 12:01 pm |
  24. Kristen

    I am glad this election is bringing out those who do not normally participate. Whether you like Clinton or Obama, both have made history this election and that I think is inspiring many to get out and vote. I hope things don’t go too sour at the end of this because it would be a shame to have McCain in the White House.

    June 2, 2008 at 11:36 am |
  25. Bobbi

    Wow. Someone is finally talking about Native Americans. I had just assumed we were the forgotten race here in the U.S., especially in this election year. I know where I live in Michigan many of the people are Obama supporters, but it is nice for someone to give us a little attention.

    June 2, 2008 at 11:25 am |
  26. Debbie, NJ

    We hear you Native Americans. Make your voice heard.

    June 2, 2008 at 11:17 am |
  27. Gary Chandler in Canada

    In Ruth Bebe Hill's amazing book 'Hanta Yo' (clear the way), which I read about 5 times, she depicts the high moral, family, political, and spiritual standards of the Lakotah and Dakotah nations.
    For one thing, they had the death penalty for telling a lie.
    Where would that leave our modern day politicians, lawyers, news people, and teachers?
    It is a LIE for Clinton to claim a popular vote lead.
    Clinton, who Obama should offer the Health Ministry Portfolio to, is not ahead in the Popular Vote, when Fair Reflection is used as a criteria. It is totally Dishonest and Inaccurate for her to claim a 1/2 million lead.
    When is she going to stop drinking the soup that Wolfson and Ickes feed her? Check out the charts at the ‘real clear politics’ web site!
    Even if you use the FALSE measuring stick the Clinton Camp foists on you, 0% for Obama in MI and dismissing, disenfranchising, 4 whole States that Obama won, the biggest False reflection she could claim is 300,000, NOT 1/2 million. Google ‘real clear politics’
    When you *add a FAIR allocation for Obama in MI, *add the estimates of the 4 states that don’t reveal PV, *add the support for Obama in the ‘missing’ 17% out of Fla (Clinton 49.8% Obama 33%, ??? 17%), and *add the share of the voters that stayed home in FLA and MI, Obama’s PV lead is over 100,000, to which SD and MO will be *added.

    When Ickes can spend all day Saturday, without challenge, pulling the wool over your eyes with a fairy tale 73 delegate count in MI, it only encourages him to make false claims of a 1/2 million lead in PV.
    (73 divided by 128 is 57%. Clinton did NOT get 57% in Mi! Her 55% times 128 is 70! What calculator did Ickes use to get 73 instead of the actual 70? By the way, Obama had to pay a filing fee to remove his name, Clinton avoided that cost!)

    Someone has to explain to her that Obama’s young, as well as independent, supporters will no longer trust his message if he chooses a VP candidate to ‘expedient’ reasons. They would accept Clinton in as Health Minister.

    June 2, 2008 at 11:17 am |
  28. Annie Kate

    I hope whoever is elected President will help all the Native Americans. It is shameful how these people have been historically treated and then shoved aside out of sight so others could reap the riches of what used to be Indian land.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    June 2, 2008 at 11:16 am |
  29. andy

    If it would have been the 1800 maybe but now I think we have eleminated that questionmark

    June 2, 2008 at 11:07 am |
  30. Cindy

    It seems like in every primary everyone in the media is calling out who they think will be the group to make a "difference" in the election. So far it has been a cross section of the nation...from blacks to white males to middle Americans now on to Indians. I just don't see what is the deal. Every primary it is some new group that "matters most".

    In the general election none will matter because it is the whole nation voting and no one group will have the upper hand.

    June 2, 2008 at 10:57 am |