A lot of attention has been given during this election to the difficulty the Republican Party has faced in attracting minority voters, and the Hi-Line is no different.
Though only a few residents of the Rocky Boy’s and Fort Belknap Indian reservations wanted to discuss their thoughts on the candidates running for office this year, the one’s who did all seemed to agree — Indian country is Democrat country.
“Last year, one person voted Republican, and everyone wondered who it was, ” said the attendee of a yoga class at Stone Child College who didn’t want to give her name.
Amy Snow, a special education teacher in Hays-Lodge Pole schools, said her decision is easy.
“I’m a Democrat, ” Snow said. “I haven’t really been following the races. ”
Willie Parisian, from Rocky Boy, said he supported President Barack Obama because he’s a Democrat, and “that other guy’s so rich. ”
Parisian also supported U. S. Sen. Jon Tester, which fellow Rocky Boy resident Gus Bacon said is mostly a return of the support the reservations feel from the Democratic legislators.
“I like Tester because he has visited our campus multiple times, ” Bacon said. “Rehberg has never set foot in our building. ”
The shy yoga lady agreed.
“(The Democrats) show up, ” she said. “The other guys do not. ”
The Republicans didn’t even bother nominating a candidate for House District 32, which stretches across the Hi-Line through Rocky Boy’s, and Fort Belknap Indian reservations.
Two Native American Democrats competed in the primary, with Clarena Brockie beating incumbent Tony Belcourt to take the seat unopposed.
The chairman of the Hays-Lodge Pole school board, John Doney, expressed disappointment over a few broken promises between the Obama administration and the Crow reservation in southern Montana. The administration has, just in the past year, settled dozens, if not hundreds, of lawsuits brought by tribal governments against the federal government for abuse and mismanagement of resources, sending billions of dollars to reservations across the country.
Recently tensions between the tribal governments on Fort Belknap and Fort Peck, and the surrounding ranchers over bison relocation have left a bad taste in those ranchers mouths, that many attribute to Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s Democratic administration, which they believe has been too friendly with tribal governments.
Last month Democratic state Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy surprised many people by crossing party lines and endorsing Republican state superintendent candidate Sandy Welch over Democratic fellow Native American incumbent Denise Juneau.
The endorsement could be the first step in a massive political shift that changes the electoral face of Indian country, but probably not. Not until the Republicans at least “show up. ”