SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Native groups have been trying to get a bigger role in the American political conversation for years, and now could be their time. Which is why 11 of the Democratic presidential candidates showed up here for the recent, first-ever Native American Presidential Forum.
"Just by showing up, they realize the importance. That's a start," says Jamie Edwards, an adviser to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, adding he believes Native Americans will support a candidate whose vision "recognizes the wrongs and is respectful of the fact that tribes are governments."
The tribal nations, comprising some 6.8 million people, may hold the key to President Trump's defeat in 2020 if Democrats can turn out Native voters in large numbers. These voters are a key constituency now because of the unique electoral math following Trump's upset victory in 2016, when reliably blue Midwestern states turned into swing states giving Trump narrow margins — narrow enough that if the Native vote, which leans Democratic, had shown up in big numbers, Hillary Clinton would be president today.
That's a lot of political power for a group of Americans who make up less than 3 percent of the population.
So who did their homework and connected with the attendees at the forum last week? Edwards listed Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Julian Castro.
VICE News followed Edwards as he talked with other attendees and watched the 2020 contenders at the two-day forum.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.