It took a lot of pushing, name calling and personal attacks to finally force me from Barack Obama's bandwagon. That's right. I will not be casting my vote for Obama and if you believe today's polls, my vote doesn't matter.
But it matters to me, win or lose.
A few weeks back I wrote a column that said I was "undecided." Many of Obama's supporters took this to mean that I would be voting for Senator John McCain. I did another column asking, "What is it that liberals do not understand about the word "undecided?"
That opened up the floodgates. Some of the kinder words aimed at me were stupid bastard, ignorant S.O.B., not a real Indian, in the back pocket of the Republicans, and then the comments degenerated into words beginning with the letter "F".
I was taught that liberals are the ones with the open hearts and minds. Wrong! "You're either for Obama or you're not worth my spit," is what I hear from liberals today.
I listened to the supporters of Obama and read his plans for Indian country, but I was not impressed. His platform is a platform of promises. In my more than 30 years in the field of Indian media I have heard hundreds of politicians stand at the podium and say "Here is what I intend to do for you." After reading the record of John McCain I settled on his record. He was able to say, "Here is what I have already done for you."
Going to do or have done? If some of the tribal leaders out there would take off their blinders they would recall politicians that said "I promise" and have met few that could proudly say, "This I have done." One spews another long list of promises, the other presents a long list of accomplishments. Accomplishments or more promises: Which is best for Indian country?
Senator McCain fought for and sponsored the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Since it became law NAGPRA has returned the remains of hundreds of Indians to their homelands for proper burial. The law has also protected Indian gravesites from demolition until the remains could be safely removed.
McCain has attempted to stop the federal recognition of Indian tribes by preventing them from going through the back door to gain recognition. He strongly opposes federal lawmakers from bypassing the Bureau of Indian Affairs and granting recognition to Indian tribes without fully exploring and investigating their claims of legitimacy.
Why did so many presidents of Indian colleges jump into the tank for Obama when it was McCain who has been their strongest supporter in Congress? McCain sponsored the legislation to reauthorize tribal colleges and he cast his vote in favor of the Native American Languages Act.
There is only one Native American serving as a federal judge in this Nation. She serves the District of Arizona and her name is Diane J. Humetewa, Hopi. She was appointed by Senator John McCain of Arizona.
When a Nation is in financial turmoil as America is today the people that fall to the bottom of the list of promises are Native Americans. Remember the adage, "Out of sight, out of mind?"
Former Republican Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Northern Cheyenne, threw his support behind McCain and since then has been severely lambasted by the Indian media. McCain also has the support of Republican Representative Tom Cole, Chickasaw, of Oklahoma. Cole has also taken his lumps from Indians he once considered his friends.
For those Indians who believe that Sen. Obama will somehow be more magnanimous to Indians simply because he is a minority, consider this: Many thousands of Indians were relocated from their reservations to cities like Dallas, Cleveland, Oakland and Los Angeles 50 years ago and they were moved into Black communities headed by Black community organizers. When the loaves of bread were handed out whom do you think ended up with the crumbs? Don't take my word for it. Ask someone who has been on relocation. Ask the Indians in Chicago, Obama's home territory, about what he didn't do for them. I did.
In the end it all amounts to what one man has done and what the other has promised. Done deeds or more promises? How many times in the past have I heard tribal leaders complain about broken promises. In the 1970s when Elijah Whirlwind Horse was President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe I served as his Director of Public Relations. He said something that has always stuck with me. He said, "You can't take promises to the grocery store."
So at the risk of alienating family members, longtime friends and Democratic politicians, I will cast my vote for the man that "has done," rather than the one who says, "I promise."
(Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was born, raised and educated on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He was the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association and the founder and publisher of Indian Country Today, the Lakota Times, and the Dakota/Lakota Journal. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in the Class of 1991. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)