Betting On Themselves

INDN's List recruits Native American political candidates

| December 1, 2005

Native Americans have long been a reliable part of the Democratic base. But despite their party loyalty, and many tribes' newfound gambling wealth, there are precious few Native officeholders anywhere outside tribal lands.

That may be about to change. The Indigenous Democratic Network List (INDN's List), a group organized to recruit and train Indian candidates for local and state offices, held its first 'Campaign Camp' in October at a tribal casino near Minneapolis.

INDN's List was founded by Kalyn Free, an Oklahoma attorney, Democratic activist, and Choctaw, after losing a race that would have made her the first Native woman in Congress. Free modeled the group after EMILY's List, an influential feminist fundraising organization that supported her campaign. 'This has been a dream of mine for more than a dozen years,' she told Indian Country Today.

When Free announced INDN's List last February she told The Washington Post she was tired of the Democrats' approach to tribes. 'I'm sick of the [Democratic National Committee] treating Indians like an ATM machine that has to be courted every couple of years,' she said.

In 2006, INDN's List will focus on state and local races, and is working with legislative candidates in Montana, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Free's efforts are already gaining attention from some powerful Democrats. Free was appointed to the Democratic National Committee earlier this year, and DNC Chairman Howard Dean spoke at the October meeting, as did comedian and radio host Al Franken and several members of Congress.