Native-American women elected to Congress make history

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- It wasn't just a blue or red wave this midterm election but a pink wave that took hold across the country as a record number of women are headed to Capitol Hill.

Among the 100 women elected to Congress are number of minorities, including Native-American women. It’s a historic moment especially considering indigenous people weren't granted the right to vote until 1924.

New Mexico Democrat Debra Haaland and Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids are the first two Native-American women elected to Congress.

Davids said, "We know there are so many of us, who welcome everyone. Who see everyone, who know that everyone should have the opportunity to succeed. And today, we show that."

Dr. Debra Barker, UW-Eau Claire's American Indian studies program director, says the shift shows representation matters.

Barker explained, “There are probably about 200 American Indians serving in public office across the United States and especially for young people to see themselves represented by others who look like them who have similar stories and backgrounds taking political office and having earned the right to do that.”

Barker says she hopes representation on a national stage will raise awareness about the importance of Native American treaties and treaty rights.

“All of us grow up with so much optimism in the power of democracy and of responsible leadership and to see the dawn of a new and fresher landscape of dedicated leaders not only in the Eau Claire community but nationally is heartening,” she added.

Another note-worthy election is Minnesota’s first Native American Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.

Dr. Barker also says the midterm election fell during national Native American Heritage month which UW-Eau Claire is observing with several events throughout November.