Saturday, December 10, 2011

First Navajo woman to run for Congress

When we talk about diversity in this country, very often our Native brothers and sisters are invisible in that conversation. Have you ever noticed that when we refer to people of color, we'll mention African Americans, Hispanics and Asians but pretty regularly fail to include Native Americans? If not, start paying attention. To be invisible is perhaps the very essence of oppression. So it should come as no surprise to us that we have never had a Native American woman serve in the U.S. Congress.

But perhaps we can help change all that. In 2012 Wenona Benally Baldenegro is running to be the representative of Arizona's Congressional District One. She would be the first Native American representative from Arizona.

And Wenona has quite an impressive story to tell. She was raised by a single mother who was an elementary school teacher on the Navajo reservation and was the first American Indian to graduate summa cum laude from Arizona State University’s prestigious Barrett Honor’s College, with a B.A. in English. Then Wenona earned a master degree in public policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a juris doctorate degree from Harvard Law School.

Since then she's worked with the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, non-profits and law firms in a variety of areas including education, health care, economic development, affordable housing and the preservation of Native American sites on tribal and federal lands in Arizona.

But nothing speaks more profoundly than personal experience.

Two years ago, my relatives rushed one of my grandmothers to the IHS clinic located in my hometown. The emergency room staff taped a note to the door, stating "The ER is closed due to budget cuts. Please visit the next nearest clinic." My relatives drove my grandmother to the nearest clinic 45 minutes away. She died on the way there. Too many of us have similar stories, and I will work hard to ensure that these types of tragedies do not happen to our people anymore.

I am honored and grateful that a woman like Wenona is willing to enter politics and run for Congress. So even though I'm not a Native American and don't live in Arizona, I'll be happy to support her in any way I can. That's how we give President Obama and Nancy Pelosi the kind of people they can work with to really make a difference for all of us.


  1. I hope she wins. Never knew anything about her.

  2. And yes, I did notice that Native Americans are left off the list of people of color, even by our President. Irks me.

    Thanks for this, Smartypants. I love what she's doing and I wish her well. We need more Natives in positions of power in this country.