Couchiching First Nation's Tara Houska advises Bernie Sanders on First Nation issues
'Although we have less of the population, it doesn't mean that we don't matter'
A woman from Couchiching First Nation in northwestern Ontario is playing an important role in the current U.S. presidential campaign.
Tara Houska is the Native American advisor to the Bernie Sanders campaign.
She told CBC News that bringing Indigenous issues to the forefront of the US presidential campaign has its challenges.
"What Canada did to Indigenous peoples — acknowledging that the residential school era happened — that's never occurred in the United States," Houska said.
"Boarding schools are not acknowledged. Most people have no idea that they even happened."
'We are still here'
One commonality between Canada and the U.S. is a lack of funding for education for Indigenous peoples.
"I'm hoping that, on this side of the border — [by adding] Native Americans … to this campaign and by doing this outreach — it makes people aware that we are still here, that we do have a voice, and that our votes are important," she said.
"Although we have less of the population, it doesn't mean that we don't matter. I think society should be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. So, if we want to be in these great societies that are leaders in the world, then we should act that way."
Houska noted it is a big deal in the U.S. to just acknowledge Native Americans, let alone have a policy advisor.
She said she hasn't heard much from Hilary Clinton on her native American policies, and laughed when asked about Donald Trump's policies on native Americans, adding she hasn't heard about any specific policies.
Houska was born in International Falls, MN, went to school in the U.S. and is currently the national campaign director for Honor the Earth, a non-profit organization founded to raise awareness and financial support for Indigenous environmental justice.