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Opinion.  Politics has gotten quite nasty this election season. 

Recently, numerous stories have emerged in the media about videos being manipulated to make President Joe Biden appear to be confused and disconnected. These misleading videos are being shown on FOX News and circulating social media. 

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One video depicted Biden supposedly looking for a chair that wasn’t there while honoring those who served and died at Normandy on the 80th anniversary of D-Day during World War II.

Upon further examination and put into full context, Biden found his chair and sat down with the others he walked onto the stage with and they all sat down together. Of course, the intent is to portray Biden as unworthy to be reelected president in November. 

These deceptive practices are nasty politics.

Some of these nasty politics hit Indian Country last month when Montana U.S. Senator Steve Daines, a Republican, put a procedure block on Biden’s federal district judge nominee for eastern Montana, Danna Jackson. Jackson is a Kootenai descendant who grew up in Montana on the Flathead Reservation. Biden nominated Jackson to be a federal judge in late April 2024.

A spokesperson for Daines said in a statement that the senator reviewed 15 applications to fill the vacancy for the federal court in Montana. Daines complained that the White House “never sought out his advice in choosing their nominee.” 

The White House fired back almost immediately. White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement that Daines’ team interviewed Jackson more than six months ago, but Daines refused to meet with her.

Jackson, a tribal attorney for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, was lauded by three national Native American organizations: the National Congress of Americans Indians (NCAI), the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), and the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA).

"Danna Jackson has a long track record of public service, extensive federal legal experience, and is well qualified to be a federal judge," NARF Executive Director John Echohawk said. "We commend the Biden Administration’s selection of this historic nominee and exhort her confirmation. She will be a strong addition to the federal judiciary in Montana."

Not according to Daines, whose block will cost a qualified Native American woman from serving on the federal bench. 

Native American judges remain severely underrepresented in our nation’s federal courts. Before the Biden administration, less than 10 Native Americans, Alaska Natives, or Native Hawaiians total — out of thousands — had ever served as lifetime judges, according to the Native American Rights Fund. This historical exclusion has long been unacceptable. 

It is worth noting that Biden has nominated over half of Native Americans to ever serve as federal judges. All have been women. Biden nominated Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby (Black and Native American) to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland; Judge Lauren King (Muscogee Creek Nation) to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington; Judge Sunshine Sykes (Navajo) to the U.S.  District Court for the Central District of California, Sara Hill (Cherokee), and Danna Jackson (Kootenai) to the U.S.  District Court for the District of Montana.

Unfortunately, Daines’ block has derailed Jackson’s nomination. 

Daines is highly partisan. When he was a member of the House of Representatives, he voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that contained a tribal provision. During Deb Haaland’s (Laguna Pueblo) confirmation to become the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Daines was one of the most fierce opponents of her nomination. The senator, who receives campaign contributions from big oil, called Haaland a radical.

So, Daines has proven himself to be an opponent of Native American women nominated for federal positions. 

Sadly, Daines serves on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. One has to wonder why is he there if he cannot support American Indians or their positions on important issues? By virtue of its name, the committee's members should be dedicated to promoting American Indians and Indian Country's progress.

It is shameful that Daines chooses to play partisan politics by blocking Jackson's nomination. It matters little that his pride was hurt by the Biden White House's perceived snub. He should have made himself available to be more involved in the selection process rather than relying on his staff.

MAGA-style nasty politics should not be involved with Native Americans. We have been underrepresented for far too long. 

Given Daines’ track record with Native American nominees, he does not belong on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

Thayék gde nwéndëmen - We are all related.

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About The Author
Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].