With the jagged, snow-covered peaks of the Mission Mountains as a backdrop, Sen. Hillary Clinton pledged her support Tuesday to tribal sovereignty, Indian health care and economic growth on reservations in Montana.
“We need a president next January who understands the obligation that the United States government has to the tribes that represent the first peoples of the United States,” Clinton told a crowd of more than 1,000 at Salish Kootenai College on the Flathead Indian reservation.
Her visit came a week before the last Democratic primaries in Montana and South Dakota on June 3 and about a week after front-runner Sen. Barack Obama’s visit to the Crow Reservation on the other side of the state. Native Americans are expected to make up as much as 20 percent of next Tuesday’s Democratic primary voters in Montana, as the AP has reported.
|Hillary Clinton drew loud cheers Tuesday, promising to include Indians in her health care plan and to tackle health issues like diabetes.|
Clinton was greeted by tribal dancers and given a pair of moccasins and a beaded necklace by Joseph McDonald, the president of the tribal college.
Should she overcome Obama’s comfortable lead in delegates and beat Sen. John McCain in the general election, Clinton promised to appoint and work closely with a representative of Indian Country and to create more economic opportunities for tribes in the region.
Renewable energy production could be a huge source of income for tribes in the West, Clinton said, and it would help relieve the nation’s energy crisis.
“Under my energy plan, the federal government will be investing in tribal leaders who want to make the transition to clean energy. There are many places in the United States, in Indian country, that could be the leaders in wind and solar energy, and geothermal energy,” Clinton said.
Clinton also addressed how her universal health care plan would benefit the Indian community and how it would help prevent diabetes and heart disease on the reservation. The rate of diabetes among the Indian population is twice as high as it is elsewhere in the nation, Clinton said. To help ease the epidemic, her plan would aim to provide more preventative health care services.
|Francine Dupuis, center, a member of the Kootenai tribe who lives in Pablo, was determined to attract Clinton’s attention when she gave the audience an opportunity to ask questions. Dupuis wanted to know what Clinton was going to do about the Gaming Commission. Clinton said she would support tribal sovereignty.|
(The Indian Health Service, funded because of treaty obligations, is the sole source of healthcare on most reservations. The IHS gets $2,000 fewer per capita than inmates in the federal prison system, according to federal figures.)
Patty Guiberson, a resident of Anaconda, Montana, said she was impressed with Clinton’s speech.
“It’s nice to hear someone articulate a specific plan,” Guiberson said. “I think it shows that she definitely understands and is being honest about putting a plan in place.”
Jeanne Livingston, a nursing student at the Salish Kootenai College, said she had already voted for Clinton. “She knows what she wants to do and how to accomplish it,” Livingston said. “I think she is a strong leader and I’d also love to see a woman as president.”
Clinton left Salish Kootenai College in Pablo to fly to Billings for an evening rally.