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A record number of Native American women elected to the Congress for the first time in history

18 Native American women ran for congressional office in 2020 — the highest number in any single election cycle. Of them, 9 were Democrats, nine were Republicans.

A record number of Native American women elected to the Congress for the first time in history
Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) joins fellow House Democrats for a news conference to mark 200 days since they passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act, at the US Capitol on September 27, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somod

Votes are still being counted to determine the next president of the United States, but the 2020 election saw the nation celebrating a number of diversity firsts in down-ballot races. The years-long battle for representation bore fruit on Tuesday when many candidates from underrepresented communities were elected to serve at state and local levels. Among these firsts is a new record set by Native American women who've now ensured that they will be represented in the US government like never before. A record number of Native American women were elected to the US House of Representatives this week with three out of 18 candidates winning congressional seats.




According to Guardian, Democrats Deb Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo member representing New Mexico, and Sharice Davids, a Ho-Chunk Nation member representing Kansas, managed to retain their seats after becoming the first Native American women elected to Congress in 2018. They are joined by Republican Yvette Herrell — a Cherokee — who beat the Democratic incumbent Xochitl Torres Small for her New Mexico congressional seat. Harrell is the first Republican Native American elected to Congress. Herrell and Haaland's wins also make New Mexico the first state to have two indigenous women as congressional delegates.




In another first, the state also elected women of color as all three of its delegates in the US House of Representatives. According to the nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom, The 19th, at least 18 Native American women ran for congressional office in 2020 — the highest number in any single election cycle. This number bears particular significance when compared to the fact that only two Native American women ran for office in 2016, one in 2012, and two in 2008. As per a Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) report, of the 18 candidates, nine were Democrats and nine were Republicans.




Native American women made up 2.6 percent of all women running for Congress this year, the highest percentage since CAWP started collecting data in 2004. Although this is still a small margin of all candidates, it is an improvement for the group that has been historically underrepresented in political leadership. There have only been four Native Americans in the US Senate and a handful of indigenous US representatives before now, all of which were men until Haaland and Davids' win in 2018. Native American women also made strides in other areas of government with Democrat Stephanie Byers — who is Chickasaw and a retired teacher — becoming Kansas' first transgender state legislator.




"We've made history here," Byers said on Tuesday. "We've done something in Kansas most people thought would never happen, and we did it with really no pushback, by just focusing on the issues." Meanwhile, Christina Haswood, a Navajo Nation member, became the youngest person in the Kansas legislature at 26 years of age. Democrat Ponka-We Victors, a Tohono O’odham and Ponca member, was re-elected as a member of the Kansas House to represent District 103. According to the independent Native American newspaper Indian Country Today, the US House of Representatives will have its highest number of indigenous representatives following this election.




Including Haaland, Davids, and Herrell, six indigenous candidates won their elections. Oklahoma representatives, Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, who is Cherokee, won their re-elections while Kaiali'i "Kai" Kahele, who is Native Hawaiian, won an open seat for Hawaii. Previously, there were four indigenous members of Congress, all in the House of Representatives.

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