The City Sentinel

Oklahoma’s Kalyn Free closes INDN’s List, saying “Yakoke” (Thank you)

Patrick B. McGuigan Story by on December 30, 2010 . Click on author name to view all articles by this author. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Shown at an event with then-Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth, at left, are Steve Bruner, center, and Kalyn Free. Free has announced she is closing operations at INDN’s List, a prominent progressive organization supporting election of Native Americans to public office. Photos provided, text by Patrick B. McGuigan

Kalyn Free, a prominent progressive/liberal activist and member of the Choctaw Nation, announced in a recent letter to friends and supporters that she is closing INDN’s List, a group dedicated to the recruitment, election and support of Native Americans to political office.  INDN stands for “Indigenous Democratic Network.”

Free’s work supporting Democrats frequently landed her in the middle of Oklahoma City, including a notable event featuring Massachusetts U.S. Rep. Barney Frank at the downtown Colcord Hotel.

In her recent letter, Ms. Free wrote: “In 2005, many of you joined in my dream and vision of building an organization to recruit, train, support and elect American Indians to public office across America. Some of you volunteered countless hours, some gave thousands of dollars and others the proverbial widow’s mite, some shared your expertise at our INDN Campaign Camps, one made a quilt while others generously bid on it, and hundreds of you sent encouraging words of inspiration and prayed for our candidates and staff.”

Free continued, “As we say goodbye to another year, we also say goodbye to INDN’s List. I am deeply saddened to tell you that INDN’s List is closing our doors. In 2009 and 2010, I personally financially supported INDN’s List and paid most of our overhead and salaries.

“Regrettably, we have simply been unable to expand our donor base beyond a handful of visionary tribes, unions and individuals. And, the tribes who supported us in our first four years just did not come through these last two years.”

Over the past years, Free said, “INDN’s List has achieved tremendous success. We helped American Indians win 63 elections. Prior to this election cycle, we won 70% of our races. We helped an American Indian woman win statewide office in Montana, helped Indians win office in several chambers where they had never served, helped bring more Indians into office than at any point in history and were instrumental in holding caucuses on reservations for the first time in a presidential primary in Nevada.

“Equally as important, INDN’s List trained hundreds of volunteers, staff and candidates and cast a bright spotlight on the dearth of Indians serving in public office. I have always said, ‘Little Indian boys and girls cannot be what they cannot see.’ I am most proud that INDN’s List played a role in giving future generations of Indian children concrete examples of what they can be.

“The Republican onslaught took out so many of our excellent office holders and candidates. Sadly, INDN’s List will not be around to help Indians regain the ground we have lost. Even with our major losses, Indians are more represented today than we were six years ago.”

Free worked at the U.S. Department of Justice in the Indian Resources Section, and supervised litigation throughout “Indian Country.” Notable cases included a joint filing between the U.S. government and two tribes in Washington state. She also litigated in a case involving safe drinking water on Sac & Fox lands in Oklahoma.

After her service in Washington, D.C., Free was the first woman in history elected as District Attorney for Pittsburg and Haskell counties in southeastern Oklahoma. She ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2002, and this year was supportive of state Sen. Jim Wilson’s primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Dan Boren in the second congressional district.

In her letter announcing closure of INDN’s List, Free thanked a wide range of supporters of the group, including:

“Governor Howard Dean * Congressman Mike Honda * Senator Al Franken * Senator Michael Brown * Chairman Gus Franks * Vice Chairman Glynn Crooks * Chairman Robert Martin * Councilwoman Mary Ann Andreas * Chief Jim Gray * Chairman Ron Allen * Councilman Bill John Baker * Councilwoman Cara Cowan Watts

Also: Jim Adelman * Sam Alexander * Sandra Beasley * Richard Bell * Lorene Bishop * Carma Lee Brock * Steve Bruner * Jessa Bush * Lori Cain * Anne Caprara * Rob Capriccioso * Lawrence Crooks * Brian Daffron * Ada Deer * Lindsay Earls * Tom Farris * Susan Filbert * Peggy Flanagan * Jim and Sally Frasier * Andy Frye * John Gaines * Todd Goodman * Lisa Gover * Louis Gray * Faye Hadley * Dennis Hall * Willie Hardacker * LaDonna Harris * Laura Harris * David Harrison * Joan and Ken Hilterbrand * Robert Holden * Adam Holmes * Gordon Holmes * Representative Chuck and Stephanie Hoskin * Megan Hull * Patricia Ireland * Somelea Jackson * John Jameson.

In addition: * Marlene Jones * Dana Jim * Woody Kaplan * Micah Kordsmeier * George Krumme * Celinda Lake * Frank Lamere * Barbara Lee * Bob Lemon * Representative Al McAffrey * Jason McCarty * Luckie McClintock * Tammy McCullar * Dorthy McGill * Theresa McMillan * Brad Miller * David Ocamb * Dave Parker * Jodi Rave * Bill and Rose Ann Risenhoover * Joan Rogin * Susan Rowe * Courtney Ruark * Laura Sanders * Charles Siegel * Marty Smith * Dane Strother * Ronda Talley * Andy Tobias * Mark Trahant * Frosty Troy * Jennifer Vanderheide * Merv Wampold * Mary Beth Williams * Vickie Winpisinger * Sherilyn Wright * Forest County Potawatomi * Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community * San Manuel Band of Mission Indians * Muckleshoot Indian Tribe * Tulalip Tribes * Chickasaw Nation * Cherokee Nation * IBEW * NEA * UAPP * TWU * USW * IBT * SEIU * AFL-CIO * Democracy for America * EMILY’s List * Native American Times * Indian Country Today * 21st Century Democrats * Wellstone Action.”

Free wrote, “The past six years have been extremely challenging and deeply rewarding. I will always cherish the memories of watching Claudia Kauffman take her oath of office to become the only Indian woman serving in the Washington Senate, she said. “And Al McAffrey becoming the first openly gay man elected to the Oklahoma House, and Chuck Hoskin be the standard bearer for Indian Country both in Oklahoma and across the nation, and helping elect Denise Juneau as the first Indian woman to hold statewide office in Montana and Barbara McIlvaine Smith as the first Indian in the Pennsylvania House.

“My dream of seeing the first Indian woman in Congress, an Indian Governor and ultimately an Indian President lives on. They are all out there, somewhere. And maybe, just maybe, INDN’s List has helped show them the way.”

Free ended her note to supporters with the Choctaw expression: “Yakoke,” meaning “Thank you.”

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