Heinz Kerry: John Would Defend Native Americans

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) would appoint American Indians to key positions and defend tribal sovereignty if he were elected, his wife told a national tribal gathering.

Teresa Heinz Kerry (search) received loud applause for a speech Monday at the National Congress of American Indians (search) that detailed what a her husband would do for tribes. But a Republican congressman said President Bush was already doing what his rival promised.

Among the key promises, Heinz Kerry said "the doors of the White House would be reopened" to American Indians if her husband won.government would help tribes develop alternative forms of energy, such as solar and wind, "so that no American child will ever have to die for a need for oil," she said.

She said an office would be created within the Small Business Administration to address Indian business development.

Heinz Kerry said that "57 percent of all Native American children read below their reading level," so her husband would implement a "culturally relevant curriculum" to boost test scores.

U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth, an Arizona Republican, later told the crowd that the Bush administration had already set in place in the 2005 budget all of the revisions that Heinz Kerry promised.

Audience member Gregory A. Maestas said he had heard of some of those programs, so he supported Bush.

"I wish the pro-Kerry people had stayed to help separate fact from fiction," he said.

Darrell Flyingman, of the Cheyenne/Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, said the Republican response reinforced his support for Kerry.

"I am a Republican, a Vietnam vet, and I follow the issues, and Bush's promises for our communities is coming too late," he said.

"We have to make sure the candidates and the public understand our issues and the importance of this election," National Congress of American Indians president Tex Hall said. "If we want to be part of the political process, we have to vote and we have to become part of the system, just like any business or person would do."