Telling Stories, Changing the Conversation

#NativeVote18: First Nation peoples running for elected offices in record numbers

in Politics & Social Justice by

Since Dakota Access Pipeline protests and the election of Donald Trump, Native people’s participation in electoral politics has increased.

Last week’s Idaho Democratic governor primaries were rocked by Paulette Jordan, who took the race with 58 percent of the vote. Although, a fairly newcomer to electoral politics, she has some of the oldest political roots in the United States.

Jordan, a citizen of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, traces her family line thousands of years before the United States was even a concept on a cellular level. Her ancestry is Sinkiuse, Nez Perce, and Yakama–Palus.

“I’ve actually had some very powerful men in my life who said, ‘You’re never to think of yourself as either a man or a woman. You’re always to think of yourself as a leader. That’s just the way it is.’ I was raised to be in the front, having the courage from the onset and always willing to take the arrows,” said Jordan in an interview with Boise Weekly.

Forget U.S. presidents and British Royal weddings, Jordan belongs to an older dynasty. She comes from chiefs spanning back generations along Idaho and the Pacific Northwest. Some of her ancestors, like those of the Yakama-Palus Nation, waged war against the U.S. in 1855 when the government continued to encroach on Native land, stealing millions of acres.

Falling in the line of fierce leadership, Jordan, runs in a Republican-centric state, and welcomes the challenge as a Democrat. If she wins November elections, Jordan will be the first Native governor in the country.

Reclaiming Power

Jordan is part of a small, yet visible Native wave supplanting themselves in the U.S. political landscape in another way. Leading up to the primary, Jordan was penned as “the new face of rural politics in America” by the Nation. Perhaps, she, like other candidates are forgotten faces remembered, and old customs. returned.

Trahant Reports lists roughly 108 Native candidates. From Alaska, throughout states with Native territories, and in Samoa and Hawaii, Native candidates emerge representing Oglala to Blackfeet. More than half of them are women (64 campaigners). The hashtag #Native18 follows the elections for candidates in local, state and federal elections.


Since the beginning, First Nations have been involved in politics, and were part of the original politicians to broker in American politics.

Often times, their positions have been precarious at best, and in many cases, seen as adversaries. For centuries, indigenous people have fought with U.S. for their land and the Federal government not honoring treaties creating. Ultimately, many Natives went into hiding or were forced from their homelands onto reservations mainly in the Midwest, where today, most live.

Largely, Native political actions have taken place outside of electoral politics. Much of that is due to their exclusions through segregationist law and coercive tactics by the U.S. government. Over the years, tribal councils, lobbying, advocating for First Nations rights through grassroots and U.N. efforts have been paramount in Native political activism. Now with the Native wave, two worlds merge.

Headline photo credit: Paulette Jordan campaign photos.

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