Ruth Buffalo forges new path on North Dakota’s campaign trail

Ruth Buffalo participates in North Dakota State University Homecoming Parade in Fargo, N.D. on Oct 7.
NEW TOWN, N.D. — Ruth Buffalo remembers attending church in a town that borders the Fort Berthold Reservation. After services, the four-year-old girl and her mother went to the basement for fellowship, the typical coffee-and donuts-type gathering. The priest chatted briefly, and then after learning the woman and girl were from the reservation, he told them they should go home.

The little girl and her mom left.

Today, Buffalo is a woman with a family of her own. As a Democratic candidate in a statewide race for North Dakota’s insurance commissioner, she is visiting unfamiliar places in North Dakota, but this time she’s smiling. Buffalo said she is thankful for meeting many good people on the campaign trail. “Healing has been a common theme throughout this campaign,” she said. “We are more alike then we are different.”

As part of her campaign, Buffalo, has given attention to issues, such as advocating for increased access to behavioral health services; creating a stronger partnership for workforce safety and insurance; and building support for working families. The insurance commissioner seat is open. The other two candidates are Libertarian candidate Nick Bata and Republican Jon Godfread.

Buffalo recently addressed two issues relevant to her North Dakota campaign and the nation: respecting women and voting on Nov. 8.

Her campaign issued a press release Oct. 12 in reaction to comments made by her Libertarian Party opponent, Nick Bata, regarding women and rape in America. Bata has been embroiled in a Facebook thread that began Sept. 30 regarding sexual assault. Some of his statements include, “Rape culture is like Harry Potter, it’s not real,” and “Rape culture is a myth SJW’s created.” At one point during the Facebook faceoff, Bata wrote: “Make America Rape Again,” a play on Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan.

In a newspaper story and an television interview with WDAY, Bata seems to borrowing from the Trump playbook on misogynistic behavior. He refused to apologize to anyone. “Why should I apologize? And to who?” As for his views on sexual assault: “If someone can’t handle free speech, it’s your problem. Not mine,” he said.

In a statement, Buffalo, described Bata’s comments as “completely unacceptable.” She added, “The people of North Dakota deserve an insurance commissioner who has an appropriate temperament for the office, and who is compassionate to victims of sexual assault.”

For Native women, a rape culture exists when 1 in 3 will be raped in her lifetime, typically by non-Native men.

Buffalo recently spoke to students at the Fort Berthold Nueta, Hidatsa and Sahnish College about the importance of Natives and voting. As I sat in the audience, it was clear Buffalo is a much-needed American Indian role model in North Dakota politics. She grew up in Mandaree, N.D. on the Fort Berthold Reservation where she is an enrolled citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes.

She is one of three Democratic American Indian candidates raising money and running for a statewide office. Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun of Bismarck, a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will run against incumbent Republican Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak. Chase Iron Eyes, also from Standing Rock, is running for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Here’s some literature the NHS College shared from the Borgen Project regarding top 10 reasons to vote:

  • The Millennial generation accounts for one-third of the electorate.
  • Less than 50 percent of eligible young voters ages 18 to 29 cast a vote in 2012.
  • Young voters cast 19 percent of all votes cast in 2012
  • In 2012, 4 percent more young women voted than young men.
  • Young voters are more likely to support issues such as legalizing same-sex marriage, supporting a pathway to citizenship for immigrants and legalizing abortion than other age demographics.
  • Forty percent of millennials identify as non-white, making them the most diverse voting generation in history.
  • In most communities, the turnout for voting is less than 50 percent.
  • Every vote matters. There have been several cases in U.S. history where this has been seen. In 2008, an Alaskan congressional race was decided by a single vote out of 10,035.
  • Voting provides opportunity to influence the government.
  • In most state and national elections, you need to be registered to vote anywhere from 10-27 days before the actual election. Check if you are eligible to vote.

“Heidi Heitkamp was put into office because of the Native vote,” said Buffalo, of the Democratic underdog senator elected in 2012.“Wouldn’t it be great if the Native vote put Native people into office.”

Jodi Rave Spotted Bear is an award-winning opinion writer, journalist and publisher of the Buffalo’s Fire. #NativeVote16