But that could change.
It is 2018, 135 years since Sarah Winnemucca, or Thocmentony, denounced America's government and claimed that "if women could go into your Congress...justice would be soon done to the Indians". A surprisingly optimistic claim by Winnemucca, seeing as the first woman Congress member was Jeannette Rankin in 1916 and justice was not even close for Native Americans. America is a nation that has consistently marginalized Native Americans, and has actively worked to deny them traditions, land, and, for extended periods of time, their humanity. It has been 135 years, and Sarah Winnemucca's feeling of buried alive extends to those who identify as Native American.
Most recently, the Dakota Pipeline Protests highlighted how nothing has actually changed. 135 years ago, Winnemucca called out the Christian ministers who hold her "people against their will; not because he loves them, - no, far from it, - but because it puts money in his pockets," and nothing has changed, except for maybe the figurehead of government and America. Once it was the minister, today it is the faceless company who stands to make millions off the backs of the vulnerable. Winnemucca fought for her humanity, and her right to be treated as an equal human being, and today, Native Americans fight the same battle. In 2016, 133 years later, they fought for their right to drinking water.
So, what does it mean that there are now at least 35 Native Americans running for office at various levels? Arguably, it means everything. Moving into mainstream politics will allow Native Americans to have a voice, to advocate for themselves in ways they were systematically unable to before, and to fight against marginalization. Arguably, it also means nothing. Although we should cheer and support their political activation, we should also remember that this is not their tradition and not their system. Assimilation is not the answer, instead, the privileged should fight to incorporate the Native American traditions in order to restore their autonomy. A stark example of this is the Native American restorative justice system, as opposed to the common law adversarial one, and is something that is under constant debate.
Winnemucca's fight continues.