Bernie Sanders campaigned at a South Dakota Indian reservation today, stressing his goal “to develop a new relationship with the Native American people.”
“As I have said all over this country, the United States has learned the enormous amount it owes the Native American people — a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.”
One of the most important lessons that Americans have learned from Native Americans, Sanders said, is that “all of us are part of nature,” stressing the need to address climate change.
“Climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and it is already causing serious problems in our country, and throughout the world,” Sanders said.
Local residents agreed with Sanders’ message.
“We are honored that Bernie Sanders is taking the time to come to the Oglala Lakota Nation to hear our issues involving treaties, health care, and housing,” Tom Poor Bear, Vice President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of Pine Ridge said to Indian Country Today Media Network.
“I think that Bernie is a great candidate for Indian Country,” said Ernest Weston, Jr., of Porcupine, South Dakota.
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The network noted that the Sanders campaign had spoken extensively with Poor Bear and other Native American leaders prior to the rally, and plan on meeting with Sanders afterward.
Sanders took plenty of time to answer questions from attendees, especially young people. At least two of them asked about his stated goal of free college tuition.
“If I were to tell you point blank that if you did well in school, if you studied hard, I would guarantee that you would go to a public college or university,” Sanders said, addressing a high school student. “Would that make a difference in your life?”
“Yeah,” she answered. “It would probably make me strive for the best that I can be. But sometimes there’s no motivation. There’s no hope.”
He was also asked about healthcare. A reservation leader gave a long list of healthcare problems that Native Americans are facing, including low quality.
“Your voice will get around the country today,” Sanders responded to cheers. “And one of the issues that I feel very strongly about…is that promises were made, treaties were signed, and they were not kept. If elected president, we will keep those promises.”
Afterwards, Sanders was scheduled to hold a rally in Rapid City, the second most populated city in South Dakota and the one closest to Mount Rushmore, according to a press release from the South Dakota Democratic Party.
Even though South Dakota does not hold its primary until June 7, Senator Sanders is not taking any chances. According to Real Clear Politics, no recent polls have been taken in the state, which has 20 delegates at stake. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton currently leads Sanders in the delegate count, 1,716 to 1,433, as per the Real Clear Politics count. This does not include any pledged superdelegates, as they are not awarded until the convention this summer.
What do you think? Can Bernie Sanders catch Hillary Clinton in the delegate count? Does he have a real chance to be the Democratic nominee? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]