2007 Recap of our Native American Netroots Caucus at YearlyKos

( – promoted by navajo)

We met on August 2, 2007 in Chicago at the YearlyKos Convention.  Last year I had about 6 people attend, this year there were 14.  That’s more than a hundred percent increase IMO. 😉

We started by going around the room and telling our background.  I will re-tell mine and then I have asked all the participants to please post all their comments at the caucus here in this blog. 

My background below:

My mother is a product of the U.S. Government boarding school system. 

My mother was forcefully taken away to a boarding school in Tuba City, Arizona in the late 1930s at the approximate age of 5 or 6. She was one of ten siblings on the Navajo reservation.  Five children were hidden in the canyon and the other five were given up to the government.

My mother always recalls this episode with pain and tears.  She describes her mother sobbing as she watched her tiny children having their hair cut off, the tiny rolls of hair left at her feet and riding away in the back of a pickup truck.  My mother did not stop crying for weeks.  They were dusted with lice powder and she resented this because she insists that they were clean, “we were not dirty animals, we were clean!”  She said they were not allowed to speak Navajo and they were punished if they did.  Her sister Zonnie died at the school, crushed and trampled in a crowd.  My grandfather missed his children so much that he would ride his horse the 60 miles to visit them.

The other half of the children were hidden in Inscription House canyon.  These kids never went to school nor learned English.  They all stayed on the reservation and lived in the traditional manner; in hogans, no electricity nor running water.  They tended herds of sheep and goats. They grew corn, squash and melons.  They wove rugs and baskets to make a living.

The siblings that went to boarding school all left the reservation and became assimilated into white society, as was the government plan.  My mother and Caucasian father settled off the reservation in central Utah where I grew up.  My mother did not teach us Navajo deliberately.  She wanted us to speak English well and she was advised at the boarding school as she was growing up that the Navajo language would slow her children down.  We did learn a few words however when we heard her speaking to our relatives on the rez.  I wish I was fluent in Navajo. 

My grandfather and my uncle were Medicine Men.  Some of my most treasured experiences involve these two men.

I was awarded a Navajo Tribe scholarship in my twenties that put me through college.  I have always wanted to give something back in return.

A few years ago I became involved with an immersion school in Flagstaff that is trying to keep the Navajo language and culture alive.  I built a

fundraising website for them. Their test scores are excellent so they will continue to receive public school support.  Of course that funding is not enough.

Today I see the tremendous effect that the netroots has had on the political landscape.  DailyKos has changed the way we receive our news and has provided a way for us to act.  We have made a difference. I felt it was important to set up a blog for us. I feel that this blog, Native American Netroots can do the same thing that DailyKos has done to help our ongoing struggle for preservation of identity and cultural history.  It will be our forum for the discussion of political, social and economic issues affecting the indigenous peoples of the United States, including our lack of political representation, economic deprivation and health care issues.

I asked for three things of those in attendance at our caucus.

1. Please tell us your ideas.

2. Please spread the word about our blog.  Our tribes need a place to get information and they need a place to discuss, plan and act.

3. Please join and visit this blog and write about what you said at our caucus.

I will continue to work on the layout of this blog in my spare time, e.g. create a section for ACTION ALERTS, etc.

I will communicate with some sites that provide news but don’t yet have an RSS feed.

It was suggested to keep the website simple so those peeps on dial-up would be able to access it.  Perhaps I need to put the photos on another page.  I also made our banner in a hurry.  It is not optimized so I will do that soon.

There were many excellent comments.  One comment by Rayne in particular made me think and that is that many on the rez don’t have computers but many more have cellphones.  I have to study how to create pages for cellphones.

I was warmed and encouraged by the attendance of two young men, Kevin from Oglala Lakota College and Matt from South Dakota.  I think Matt was still in high school.  It is commendatory that these young guys would be willing to spend their precious youth at a political convention.  I am very impressed with that.  I hope they will talk to us here.  I told them that they are the ones who can help our tribes.  They have the tech savvy. They will be the wave that sets this in motion. I asked them to please reach out to their age group and contribute to this information broadcast project.

I was so pleased to meet Cosmic Debris and hear about her cultural artifact preservation work.  I was honored to meet Mindoca, ultrageek, Mi Corazon, Imelda, Rayne and to see again Cheryl Contee, Rain, American River Canyon, SallyCat, Mr. Cat and David Boyle again. If I missed mentioning you it is because you didn’t sign my sign in sheet or make it in any photos, apologies.

Other folk at YearlyKos found me and made suggestions.  For example Kid Oakland suggested I contact Mary Beth Williams at Wampum which I will do. We all need to work together.

Many thanks to those in attendance and I look forward to growing this site with your help.

Here are my photos:




There are also six photos of our caucus at Mona Brooks website. 3 at the bottom of this page and then 3 on the next page you can navigate to.

Please use this diary to re-tell your comments at our conference.


  1. I am moved by the description of your background, navajo.  More personal stories such as yours would be welcome.  The way to reach people (as I learned at Drew Westen’s workshop at YearlyKos) is through their feelings.  Facts are not enough. 

    This is why I became an activist – to ensure that those who cannot speak for themselves get a voice and a seat at the table.

  2. with my Native American students here in Minnesota and showing them how to use it. 

    Of course, if this were My Space, you couldn’t keep them off of here, but maybe a couple of them will stick.  You never know.

    I’ll post when I have NA related material…

  3. and I had to miss the caucus so I hope nobody minds me introducing myself here.

    I am a white guy who is adopted and has no clue about my ancestry which is very liberating. I know next to nothing about Native American issues – which to some extent was deliberate. I found that the little I learned was very depressing and horrifying and filled me with shame for my country. However, under Bush I have simply grown accustomed to being ashamed to be American.

    I also avoided Native American history/religion because I am a Wiccan and I am very aware that many white Pagans/Wiccans essentially steal a great deal of their spirituality from Native Americans. I thought that if I studied what little history we have of Celtic shamanistic religion I could avoid stealing.

    I have worked in domestic violence shelters, helping women get restraining orders primarily. So when I learned about Pretty Bird Woman House, I immediately saw how important it was for Standing Rock to have a reservation. But I did not understand how many obstacles there were simply because these women were Native American.

    I do not want to speak for any Native American, but I do want to help Native Americans get the tools they need so that they can take back control of their own lives. And that is why I am here.

  4. Here’s a list of ndn candidates from Kalyn Free.

    Dear INDN Friend:

    We are thrilled to announce our next round of endorsements for 2008!  These candidates in Oklahoma and Washington will work hard for Indian Country when they are elected in November.  You can read more about all of our endorsed candidates here.


    Senator Nancy Riley, a member of the Cherokee Nation, is running for re-election in District 37.  She has no primary, but the seat is a target of the Republican Party to try to gain the majority in the state senate.  Nancy needs your support to win again in November!

    Judge Robert Murphy, a member of the Cherokee Nation, is running in an open seat for District 21.  Judge Murphy has a primary on July 29, where we are sure he’ll be successful to go to the general in November.  Help Robert so we can regain a true majority in the OK state senate!

    Representative Scott BigHorse, a member of the Osage Nation, is running for re-election in HD 36.  We endorsed Scott in his first election in 2006, and are proud to do so again!  He has no primary, but 3 Republicans are on the ballot for July 29.  Next week, he’ll know more about the competition he faces this fall, and he needs your support to win!

    Eugene Blankenship, a member of the Cherokee Nation, is challenging a Republican incumbent in the traditionally-Democratic House District 14 seat.  He is the Democratic nominee, and needs your help for victory this fall!

    Bill Snyder, a member of the Cherokee Nation, is running as a challenger to the Republican incumbent in House District 9. He faces an uphill battle, but he needs your help to win!  If we do not start taking out incumbents in tough races, the Democrats will never regain the majority in the state house.

    Officer Clinton “Scott” Walton, a member of the Cherokee Nation, is running for the open County Sheriff seat in Rogers County.  He faces no primary, and has been endorsed by the outgoing Sheriff.  He needs your support to win!

    Representative Anastasia Pittman, a Freedman member of the Seminole Nation, is running for re-election to HD 99 in Oklahoma City.  She has a primary on July 29, and needs your help to win this summer and this fall!

    Representative Ken Luttrell, a member of the Cherokee Nation, is running for re-election to HD 37.  He has no primary, but faces a general election opponent.  Help us protect this incumbent!

    Representative Jerry McPeak, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is running for re-election to HD 13.  He faces no primary, but has an opponent in November.  Help us protect our Indian voices in the OK State House!


    Dr. Don Barlow, a member of the Ottawa tribe of Oklahoma, is running for re-election to HD 6.  We first endorsed Representative Barlow in 2006, and he is a wonderful friend to INDN’s List – our only endorsed candidate who is also a Warrior!  He has a primary on August 19 in Washington state’s new “Top 2” system, and he needs your support to make it to the general election ballot in this Republican swing district!  Representative Barlow is being targeted by the Republicans.  Last cycle, Barlow won a seat that had not been held by a Democrat for over 40 years!  He is a progressive voice for all of us and one of our top priorities at INDN’s List is to secure his victory in November.

    Representative John McCoy, a member of the Tulalip tribe, is running for re-election to HD 38.  We proudly endorsed him in 2006 and are happy to do so again!  He faces no primary opposition, but has a general election opponent.  He needs your help to win in November!

    Speaker Pro Tempore Jeff Morris, a member of the Tsimshian tribe, is running for re-election to HD 40.  Representative Morris was first elected in 1996 and was unopposed the last two cycles, but he faces a general election opponent this fall.  He needs your support to win!

    Read more in-depth bios of our newly endorsed candidates here.

    Since our founding 3 years ago, we have experienced an impressive 79% win rate, with 22 of 28 of our endorsed candidates winning in 2006 & 2007!  With your help, we can do even more.  We can help the good candidates listed above and many more throughout this election year, but we can’t do it without you.  

    Please give today to INDN’s List to help us support these excellent candidates.

    Thank you for your support.


    Kalyn Free

    P.S. Any amount you can donate to INDN’s List – from $5 to $50 – will help us support our excellent candidates this cycle.  Thank you!


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