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Presidential Candidate Makes History with Interview at Cronkite School

September 26, 2019

Steve Bullock, Montana governor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, sat down with Indian Country Today editor Mark Trahant to discuss issues that impact Indian Country and Native communities. (Photo by Ellen O’Brien)

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock sat down for a one-on-one interview Wednesday night at the Indian Country Today headquarters in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. It was believed the first time a presidential candidate made a visit to a Native newsroom.

This election cycle already made history in other ways: there were a record number of presidential candidates making campaign stops on tribal lands, releasing official policies on their views of Indian affairs, and mentioning Indian Country at various national debates.

“To my knowledge, I don’t know of a presidential candidate who has visited a Native newspaper, radio station or television studio,” said Paul DeMain, former editor of News from Indian Country and a reporter who has covered Indian Country for more than 45 years. He is a citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. The Sequoyah National Research Center, home to the American Native Press Archives, also has no previous knowledge of such an event.

This fall visit came after an invitation for all presidential candidates to join Indian Country Today for an in-depth interview to talk all things Indian Country leading up to the 2020 election. The conversation was moderated by editor Mark Trahant.

“If you look at the history of this country, the federal government has had a huge role in the lives of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Yet representation — whether running for office or visits from potential officeholders — has been far less than adequate,” Trahant said. “But this year seems different.”

Eleven candidates met with tribal leaders at a presidential forum in Iowa, Trahant noted, followed by the Indian Country Today interview with a presidential candidate at Cronkite.

“This is huge. It’s a chance to frame the discussion before the election,” he said. “And it’s worth noting that many of the candidates we talk with could end up in different areas of the government, including the cabinet. So it really does raise the discourse for Native Americans.”

Indian Country Today moved this summer into the Cronkite School.

“Indian Country Today is making tremendous strides under Mark’s leadership toward deeper and better coverage of Native American communities,” said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan. “We are very proud of our partnership with Mark, and there will be more to come as we continue to expand and intensify our focus on Native American news coverage and bringing more Native Americans to America’s newsrooms.”

Gov. Bullock viewed the interview as a chance to talk “about his partnership with tribal governments and his state Legislature’s Indian Caucus, and the real progress they have been able to make together — on healthcare, economic development, public safety, cultural preservation, and more,” said Nathan Stein, spokesman for the Bullock campaign.

Bullock is one of a handful of candidates who addressed Indian Country recently. He has been actively campaigning in Indian Country, highlighting his work as governor. He granted funding for language preservation programs, worked to combat Native youth suicide and vowed to investigate the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women.