"It shows that this is in my judgment a step forward, although it is negative and embarrassing that not every candidate is here," he said.
Richardson, who reminded attendees he was the first candidate to agree to attend the forum, met with tribal leaders before the forum and laid out a 14-point plan for addressing Indian issues. Among his pledges was a plan to help Indians develop energy sources, which was echoed by Gravel.
All three candidates vowed to improve Indian representation in federal government, from judicial appointments to Cabinet positions.
"Native Americans will be at the table if I'm elected," he said.
Kucinich also emphasized that he would like to bridge the gap between the White House and the country's "native brothers and sisters."
"As president of the United States, I intend to repair our nation repair the breach that was created years ago by the government," he told the crowd. "Let's talk as leaders around the campfire."
In terms of tribal sovereignty, Kucinich said the matter is critical and that he intends to use executive orders to restore that power to Indian Country.
Like Richardson, he called for a better health-care system.
"The health-care needs of our people need to be held up above the profit needs of the health-care industry," he said.
Gravel's remarks repeatedly drew loud laughs or applause. One particularly loud moment came after he said that when he goes to sleep at night, he does so smiling because he knows that Indian gaming is taking back money from "white men" and putting it in casino coffers.
"My God, is there some justice in the world?" he said chuckling.
He slammed the nation's war on drugs, which he said has failed because it treats it as a crime, not as a public health issue.
"It`s abominable" he said.
Gravel also pledged to seek the release of Leonard Peltier, an American Indian convicted of slaying two FBI agents despite great debate regarding the fairness of his trial.