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Sinema talks respect, protection for sovereignty


Former Navajo Nation Chairman and President Peterson Zah introduced U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., as “shi shima” to the crowd of about 75 for the Democratic Get Out the Vote Rally on Wednesday.

To which she replied, “Thank you most for that incredible new name. I will honor that forever and I will work very hard to live up to that name.”

Navajo Times | Ravonelle Yazzie
U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., at a campaign stop in Window Rock, Ariz., on Oct. 31, 2018.

Sinema is running for the Senate seat against Republican candidate Martha McSally. The race is close with some news outlets speculating that the Native vote could decide this election.

In past elections, a majority of Navajo voters have supported Democratic candidates. For example, in the last election for president, the Navajo Nation voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

RealClearPolitics reports that Sinema leads by 47.5 over McSally who is at 46.8 – a 7-10ths percent of a difference.

Sinema came all the way from southern Arizona to talk about how she is going to support Native communities.

“I will work hard to ensure that I represent the voice of the Diné people every day in the United State Senate,” she said. “You all know how important this election is. We have the opportunity to elect a United States senator from Arizona who understands the importance of respecting and protecting tribal sovereignty.”

Sinema, a Democrat from Tucson, said, “In my 13 years of public service, seven years in the state Legislature and six years in the United States Congress, I’ve been a fierce advocate for tribal sovereignty,” Sinema said. “I will fight to make sure that neither Congress nor this administration encroach on your tribal sovereignty.”

One of those encroachments is the recent Texas court ruling on the Indian Child Welfare Act that ruled it unconstitutional.

Sinema has a master’s degree in social work and teaches at Arizona State University, is familiar with the ICWA and its importance.

“One of the issues that my students find is that when dealing with foster placements and adoption that there has been, unfortunately, historically systematic discrimination against Indigenous families and Indigenous individuals who want to take care of extended family,” she said.

“I believe that individuals within a tribal community should get priority for taking care of children who are in the foster or adoptive system,” she said.

Sinema said she understands the importance and benefit of Native American culture to children who have already faced adversity.

“The reason is because these children, who have already been through so much difficulty and trauma in their lives, really need to have a community that understands their culture, language and heritage and cultural norms,” Sinema said.

She also helped spearhead the Violence Against Women Act and the special provision that provides more protection for Indigenous women.

“This is an area of real difference between me and my opponent, she (McSally) voted against long-term authorization for this provision in federal law that protects Native women and their children,” Sinema said. “As someone who’s worked in domestic violence shelters I can tell you how important it is to ensure that we have, not just the funding, but the legal mechanisms for prosecutors to crack down on those who abuse women.”

McSally visited Chinle over the weekend and yesterday held her own rally in Phoenix with “special guest” Donald Trump Jr. There is no indication that the Republican Party will hold it’s own rally on the Navajo Nation.

Early voting ends today in Arizona and Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. Voters will need to present a photo ID that includes his or her name and registered address or two forms of non-photo ID that include the voter’s name and registered address.

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About The Author

Pauly Denetclaw

Pauly Denetclaw is Meadow People born for Towering House People. She was raised in Manuelito and Naschitti, New Mexico. She was the co-recipient of the Native American Journalist Association's 2016 Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Reporting. Denetclaw is currently finishing her degree in multimedia journalism from the University of New Mexico - Main. Denetclaw covers a range of topics including genetic research, education, health, social justice issues and small businesses. She loves coffee, writing and being with her family. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Her handle is @pdineclah