Franken holds private meeting with Fond du Lac tribal officials
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken's first private issues meeting of his two-day-old campaign was with American Indian tribal officials. The former liberal radio talk show host announced his candidacy Wednesday, and was in northern Minne...
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken's first private issues meeting of his two-day-old campaign was with American Indian tribal officials.
The former liberal radio talk show host announced his candidacy Wednesday, and was in northern Minnesota on Friday.
"I just had a meeting (Friday) with the tribal council of the Fond du Lac tribe," Franken said in a cell phone Friday evening as he headed from the Iron Range to a reception in Duluth.
"That was actually my first meeting, private meeting, with a group that I've done on the campaign," said Franken, a political satirist of "Saturday Night Live" fame.
The Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe, located near Cloquet, is a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.
Told that Bemidji is surrounded by three American Indian tribes, Franken was asked how he would frame policy affecting Minnesota's Indian tribes, as well as other minority populations which make up Minnesota's culture.
The late Sen. Paul Wellstone, a Democrat, was a frequent visitor to area Indian reservations, member of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, and someone Franken was close to. Franken seeks the seat of U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who hasn't visited Bemidji area reservations.
"I have a strong emotional interest in their issues," Franken said. "Certainly in health care, in education, in social services, they have not had their treaties honored and I think that they need to have them honored."
He ties the lack of funding, as with most domestic program spending shortfalls, to the war in Iraq which will drain more than $600 billion at year's end.
"We've seen spending for people at the bottom end be cut, and it's happening with native Americans," he said. "That's the message I got when I met with the Fond du Lac."
Franken said the tribal councilors asked him why he would be concerned about their issues, with the St. Louis Park, Minn., native saying it started at home with his dad, who had been a Republican until the 1964 presidential campaign with GOP candidate Barry Goldwater.
His dad, born in 1908, voted for Herbert Hoover twice and Thomas Dewey twice, he said. "In 1964, he became a Democrat because of Goldwater's stance on the civil rights bill.
"This was pounded into our heads as kids," Franken said, "that any kind of racism, any kind of oppression of minority groups is wrong."
The elder Franken would point to the television, showing police beating civil rights demonstrators, and say, "'No Jew can stand for that,' because we had the Holocaust pounded into our head," Al Franken said.
"To me, there is a parallel," he said.