Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Reflections on an Incredible Week

Laguna Drum Group with Gov. Dean and Morongo Chair Martin (background)

Last night my trip officially ended as I drove into the driveway at my house in Tulsa, OK. Today I am back at work and tonight is my late night on the reference desk. I had many road hours through which to reflect on the past week and there are definitely a few memories that will stick in my mind for many years to come. One memory that I will take with me is hearing the stump speech given by Diane Benson, a Tlingit/Haida woman from Alaska. I must admit I hadn't expected much from her, as she appeared to be a rather reserved, even shy woman, but was I wrong about her! She stood up and opened her speech by telling the story of a young man who was turned away from an emergency room because he didn't have health insurance and his thousand dollar wound became a hundred thousand dollar disability. She went on to talk about the many months she spent at Walter Reed Hospital helping her son convalesce from injuries he suffered in Iraq. She mentioned that she had driven a tractor-trailer truck along the Alaskan pipeline and had been a Teamster (Local 959), she also mentioned that she had financed her son's college education by driving a cement mixer. She ended her speech by revealing that her only son lost both of his legs in Iraq and that the time she spent with him while he began his recovery and the time she spent talking with other wounded veterans inspired her to run for Alaska's only Congressional seat and bring a voice for peace to the nation's capital. I am hoping that Diane Benson will become one of the first two Native women to serve in the U.S. Congress.

Shirley Rivas & Diane Benson

Robert Holden, Mary Kim Titla & Francis Harjo

The other woman for whom I am pulling is Mary Kim Titla (San Carlos Apache). I had a glowing preview of Mary Kim after hearing many positive things about her, as her campaign manager, Patsy Cohoe (San Carlos Apache), was my roommate at Campaign Camp and she sang Mary Kim's praises every night as we were drifting off to sleep. I met Mary Kim on Wednesday morning when I picked her up at Ontario airport (along with Scott Bighorse and Don Barlow). Because we'd both missed lunch we decided to eat together at the coffee shop at the casino, and I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know Mary Kim a little bit better. She is a very intelligent and attractive woman who has a real passion for helping youth and families. She has three sons and has mentored many Native youth. She founded Native Youth Magazine, an exclusively online magazine for Native young people. Mary Kim is running for the seat currently held by the recently indicted Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi, who has announced that he will not seek re-election.

Hone Harawira (Maori) Performs the "Haka"

Finally, a memory that will stay in my mind for years to come is from the final night of Campaign Camp, after all of the major American politicians had moved on to the next fundraiser, the keynote speaker was a campaign camp attendee, named Hone Harawira (Maori) Member, New Zealand Parliament. After his very interesting and entertaining talk he treated the audience to a "Haka." He stood up on the stage and called several men from the crowd to join him and instructed them on the stance that they should take, and then he lit into a fierce and initimiadating chant that involved some chest beating and rather loud vocalizing. An impressive sight it was and a fitting final evening in an amazing week.

Here are a few stories that ran during the week that focused on INDN's List and Prez on the Rez (thanks to Rebekah Baker, Associate Producer of the SMS, for sending these along):

USA Today, August 22, 2007

San Bernadino Sun, August 23, 2007

San Bernadino Sun, August 24, 2007

Native American Times, August 24, 2007

Sioux Fall Argus Leader, August 29, 2007

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