A Plea For Unity In The Iowa Democratic Party

Editor’s note: At the September Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) State Central Committee (SCC) meeting a resolution was introduced to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline. The resolution failed, but there were several extenuating circumstances surrounding that vote. This past Saturday at the December SCC meeting Tisha Dumkrieger sent a letter to explain her motivation for her September vote and the criticism she has received as a result. Tisha is the Native American Caucus Chair.

Statement From The Native American Caucus Chair Tisha Dumkrieger:

“You owe your people an explanation!”

“Don’t you understand, this is the most important thing that has happened to your people in 100 years?”

“I can’t believe you would do this to your people.”

As a Native woman living in white America, these types of comments weren’t the worst I’ve heard but they did have a bite. There were dozens of comments posted and allowed by friends and allies on Democratic Party-sanctioned Facebook pages. Pages filled with people claiming to support the rights of all people to vote, to think, and to speak freely – as long as you agree with them.

Many people seemed to believe that because I am a native woman the only issue that exists to me is DAPL. It is important for individuals making these assumptions to know that I am not a mascot to this body or any other caucus group. I am not a Redskin; I am not a plastic Indian in a bag sharing space with cowboys.

I am a Native person, but I am also a woman, a mother, a daughter, a nurse, a cancer survivor, the sister of an Iraqi veteran, the sister of a transgender woman, and the wife of a union teacher. I am also a middle-class worker who has fought her way from poverty. Yes, I am native but I do not belong to a one issue race. I don’t have the luxury of thinking about life as a one issue person.

I clearly and unequivocally oppose any new pipeline that leads to the further destruction of the planet which my children will need to grow old in, I oppose any government body abusing the sovereign treaties of indigenous peoples, and I oppose human rights violations to any protester – anywhere.

I was going to vote in favor of the resolution supporting the Standing Rock Tribe at the last SCC meeting. However, as it became clear that the resolution was being used to “call out” a Democratic candidate for a vote he made, a vote with which I disagreed, I was placed in an impossible position. Do I vote against the resolution I had already voted in favor at the State Convention or do I vote for the resolution designed to harm a Democratic candidate chosen by the people of his district to represent them?

A Democrat who voted to protect labor rights on reservations.

A Democrat who voted to reauthorize the “Violence Against Women Act”.

A Democrat who voted to expand the authority of Native Tribal Courts.

A Democrat who voted against a bill that reduces regulations for the development of energy on Native American land.

A Democrat who has voted to protect Native victims of rape.

A Democrat who has a 95% approval rating from the NAACP.

The list goes on….I made the right decision.

I have the interesting perspective of fighting like hell for Bernie Sanders and then fighting like hell for Hillary Clinton. Sharing a place alongside you, I see so much talent and strength. But too often it seems we are strangers speaking in different tongues; no one understands each other and we just yell louder in hopes the other will understand.

To the Bernie wing of the Party – stop calling the other half of the party the “establishment” and start calling them the Experienced. Stop and listen to them, they have won and lost; there is wisdom in both.

To the Experienced wing of the party, I encourage you to listen to the new ideas being brought in by those who are new– forgive them for being angry – I am angry too. I’m angry at a system that would nearly bankrupt me for getting cancer and then burden my family for decades for earning an education; our anger is legitimate. There is wisdom and experience in that as well.

I regret that I could not make this statement in person today. I want to ask each of you to move forward. If we want to make this world better – we must get along – we cannot harbor ill will against each other.

In my mother’s family, before a dinner – we join hands and we say a prayer to the creator. My mother asks for the protection of our troops, our police, our people, and our President. We say Amen and she asks us to embrace and thank each other, to forgive each other and wish one another success in the future.

Before the SCC leaves for the day, I ask each of you to embrace one another, shake hands, high five, do whatever you need to do to forgive. Wish each other success so we can make the right choices for the Party.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season.


by Tisha Dumkrieger
Native American Caucus Chair – Iowa Democratic Party
Posted 12/23/16

7 Comments on "A Plea For Unity In The Iowa Democratic Party"

  • I am not a Party activist, but I am skeptical of identity politics with minority caucuses that test the loyalty of Democrats to broad Party principles versus the agenda of their caucus. I have seen the same on college campuses where formal Black, Latino and LGBT communities divide the campus not bring people together. As a Democrat I stand for inclusion, not exclusion and think the trend toward identity politics is misguided.

    • When Black, Latino, and LGBT achieve full equality, there will be no need for formal communities that “divide” communities. Until then, the Democratic Party will continue to fight for the full inclusion of these heinously disenfranchised groups. If that is “identity politics” so be it.


  • Another example where the Democratic Party is out of touch with progress and the American people. There are 8 other pipelines in the area where there are protests. What does the IDP offer but identify politics?

  • With respect, please look at caucuses in historical context. Certain groups have not been allowed full participation in the political process, and the caucus is but one means to counteract and overcome that historical problem.

  • “The resolution failed, but there were several extenuating circumstances surrounding that vote.” Where can I read the resolution? What was the final vote count? What were the exteuating circumstances?

  • That DAPL has become a litmus test issue is part of the problem highlighted in this election. We lost Wapello county for the first time in decades — by a large margin. Wapello has long been a strong labor county. My first indication we had trouble this election was in a roomful of LiUNA Laborers — and over half were wearing red MAGA hats. Because they believe the party is at war against jobs, that we have let people like Fallon (no longer even a Democrat) set the agenda in a way that harms them and their potential jobs. I understand the environment is an existential issue, but when we call for solar to replace coal and gas plants Iowa currently relies on, we need to at least acknowledge and address that it will increase energy bills for the poor and those on fixed incomes — people the Democratic Party used to fight for, and who now feel we are a threat to them. The problem is not being an environmental party, the problem is being perceived as a party of environmental zealots. The difference is important, and the messaging about that difference is important, and it will be particularly important in rebuilding a relationship with the un- and under-employed working class.

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