A Record Number of Indigenous Women Are Running for Office This Year. Here’s What an Incumbent Has to Say to a Challenger.
Deb Haaland: It is a huge responsibility to be one of the firsts, and at the same time, it’s an honor. I realize that young girls look up to me, so I have a responsibility to be a role model. Children now will never know what it’s like to not have a Native American woman in Congress. My advice to Tricia is to persevere. In 2018, when I first ran for Congress, a lot of people said, “She’ll never be able to raise the money, she’ll never win.” I didn’t listen to any of them. I knew I could win. I’d also tell Tricia that she can win!
Tricia Zunker: Seeing Deb and Sharice [Davids] make history as the first two Indigenous women elected to Congress was beyond inspiring. It was immensely powerful watching them be sworn in. Something hit me—I let out a deep exhale and thought, “There we are.” You don’t fully realize how much you weren’t represented until you finally see that you are. Not only did they make history, but their support has been incredible, generous, and genuine. They achieved this historic position and immediately turned around and held their hands back for others coming up behind them, including me.
It’s been a record-breaking year for the number of Native women running in the election. How does this bring you both hope for the future?
D.H.: It’s amazing to see so many Native American women stepping up and running to make a difference in their communities. My 2018 campaign slogan was “Congress has never heard a voice like mine.” In the two years since Sharice Davids and I have been in office, we’ve worked to encourage and support Native women candidates. Part of being the first means leaving the ladder down for those who come after us. That’s why this election I’ve committed to supporting Native Americans running for office, especially women. Representation matters, and it gives me a lot of hope for the future of our Indigenous communities.
T.Z.: Native women are leaders. We are leaders in our governments, in our communities, and in our households. When there is a Native voice at the table, the conversation changes. We are running for positions that our relatives weren’t allowed to occupy, and with that opportunity comes a duty to give back and help make things better for everyone. Increased Native candidates mean an increase in the Native vote. The Native vote is a powerful vote that can make all