Native Political Group Calls It Quits

Native Political Group Calls It Quits

Kevin Abourezk is a higher education reporter for the Lincoln Journal Star and a freelance writer and editor. He has three children and lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Date Posted: 
2010-12-20 00:00

Blog Series:

A grassroots Native organization that recruits and supports Indian candidates is closing its doors after failing to gain sponsors.

INDN’s List began in 2005 as a way to get more Indian candidates elected throughout the country. President Kalyn Free announced Monday the organization was closing shop.

“In 2009 and 2010, I personally financially supported INDN’s List and paid most of our overhead and salaries,” she said. “Regrettably, we have simply been unable to expand our donor base beyond a handful of visionary tribes, unions and individuals.

“As we say goodbye to another year, we also say goodbye to INDN’s List.”

Even those tribes who initially supported INDN’s List have failed in the last two years to keep providing support, Free said. She thanked those who volunteered to help INDN’s List and financially supported the group.

She said INDN’s List has helped Indian candidates win 63 elections and, up until this previous election, had won 70 percent of the races in which it had candidates. Free lamented the loss in November of 15 Native candidates, including seven incumbents, out of 27 endorsed by INDN’s List.

Still, she said, the organization has helped Indians win offices in chambers where Native people have never served and was instrumental in holding caucuses on reservations for the first time in a presidential primary in Nevada. INDN’s List also has trained hundreds of political volunteers and cast a spotlight on the need for Indians in public office, Free said.

“I have always said, ‘Little Indian boys and girls cannot be what they cannot see,’” she said. “I am most proud that INDN’s List played a role in giving future generations of Indian children concrete examples of what they can be.”

Those examples include: Claudia Kauffman, the only Indian woman serving in the Washington Senate; Al McAffrey, the first openly gay man elected to the Oklahoma House; Denise Juneau, the first Indian woman to hold statewide office in Montana; and Barbara McIlvaine Smith, the first Indian in the Pennsylvania House. 

“My dream of seeing the first Indian woman in Congress, an Indian governor and ultimately an Indian president lives on,” Free said. “They are all out there, somewhere. And maybe, just maybe, INDN’s List has helped show them the way.”

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