Added McKeag, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma: "We need strong leadership for this country that is familiar with Indian country. Both Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin can hit the ground running."
Indian supporters of the McCain/Palin ticket said they were pleased to have not one, but two, candidates running from states with large Native constituencies. The senator from Arizona presided over the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee for several years, while Palin leads a state that contains more than 225 of the 560-plus federally-recognized tribes in the U.S.
Talk amongst Indian RNC attendees also centered on tribal history involving President Richard Nixon, whose initiative on Native economic development was operated largely through his vice president's office.
On specific tribal issues, especially healthcare improvement, Republican Indians were quick to say that McCain and Palin could bring change--and blamed certain Democrats for lack of action in recent times.
GOP attendees of the convention said they see the main holdup to getting the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act passed this year as being Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is not happy with the pro-life provisions of the bill.
It is perceived that Democrats greatly outnumber Republicans in Indian country, and John McCain's Democratic rival, Barack Obama, has pressed that perception for months now. But when McCain finally raised the flag for his Republican supporters in Indian country, they included a roster of influential figures.
At the top of the coalition's membership are Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Northern Cheyenne, the retired Republican senator from Colorado, and Rep. Tom Cole from Oklahoma, Chickasaw, the only enrolled tribal citizen in Congress.
Both issued statements of support for their party leader.
"John McCain has served on the Indian Affairs Committee since the first day he joined the U.S. Senate 22 years ago, twice serving as its chairman," said Campbell, himself a former chairman of the committee in a release. "He serves there not because he has to, but because he chooses to. He doesn't need to be educated on tribal issues, he has been working hard on behalf of Native people for a long time. John McCain is a man of honor and he will be a great President for Indian country, and all Americans."
Cole, in the same release, added, "Senator John McCain has been a leading advocate in Congress on tribal issues for over two decades. He has introduced and championed more legislation on behalf of tribes than any other member of Congress. He knows tribal issues and, as President, he will continue to fight for tribes and uphold tribal sovereignty."
Under a section in the 67-page document titled, "Supporting Native American Communities," the platform states that the "federal government has a special responsibility to the people in Indian country and a unique trust relationship with them, which has been insufficiently honored.
"The social and economic problems that plague Indian country have grown worse over the last several decades, and we must reverse that trend. Ineffective government programs deprive Indians of the services they need, and longterm failures threaten to undermine tribal sovereignty itself."
The platform, which amounts to a GOP roadmap of principles and goals for the next four years, says that Republicans believe that economic self-sufficiency is the ultimate answer to the challenges in Indian country and that tribal communities, not Washington bureaucracies, are better situated to craft local solutions.
"Federal--and state--regulations that thwart job creation must be reconsidered so that tribal governments acting on Native Americans' behalf are not disadvantaged."
The document states that the "Democratic Party's repeated undermining of tribal sovereignty to advantage union bosses is especially egregious."
"Republicans reject a one-size-fits-all approach to federal-state-tribal partnerships and will work to expand local autonomy where tribal governments seek it," according to the platform. "Better partnerships will help us to expand opportunity, deliver top-flight education to future generations, modernize and improve the Indian Health Service to make it more responsive to local needs, and build essential infrastructure."
The Democratic platform contained several notations of tribal issues throughout, such as recognizing a need to reduce disparities in health care for Natives in a culturally-sensitive manner. It also promised federal consultation with tribes on homeland security issues.
One stark contrast between the RNC and DNC platforms is that the Republican document does not include language promising to create a position for a White House advisor on Indian affairs, nor does it propose to hold annual summits between top federal political leaders and tribal leaders.
Republicans say the choice is between tribal communities and Washington bureaucracies. This is a lie since Democrats aren't calling for new bureaucracies. Democrats say the choice is between tribal communities with more resources and tribal communities with fewer resources. They know that when Republicans talk about getting out of the way, it means cutting the tribes' budgets and going home.
As usual, Republicans can't tell the truth if their lives depend on it. Which party has controlled Congress and the presidency for most of the last eight years? That's right, the GOP. But Democrats are to blame for the Bush administration's lack of accomplishments? Because they've oppose conservative attempts to control women's bodies in the last few months? Yeah, right.
If there are any Republicans who take responsibility for the Bush administration's failure to act in the last eight years, I haven't heard them. Hence we have McCain praising Bush to the hilt and then calling for change. And completely ignoring the fact that the Bush/McCain government is what needs to be changed. Heal thyself, old man.
About the only nugget of truth in these postings is that Democrats sometimes take the side of unions against tribes. When that threatens tribal sovereignty, as it often does, that's wrong. Indians should ask how the candidates stand on the recent National Labor Relations Board decision--the one that's forcing sovereign tribes to negotiate with unions.
As for all the things McCain has done for Indians, see What Has McCain Done Lately? The short version is that he's stood by while the Bush administration wasted government revenues on tax cuts and the war on Iraq rather than funding Indian services.
Below: The POW braggart and Phyllis Schlafly Jr.