Dem Platform Honors Native American Tribes That Fought Against U.S. in War of 1812

Chair of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez
Chair of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez / Getty Images
July 27, 2020

The preamble to the Democratic Party’s draft platform formally honors a list of Native American tribes that resided on the land where its convention is being held—but neglects to acknowledge that many of these groups allied with the British and took up arms against the United States during the War of 1812.

The first page of the Democratic National Committee document begins by "acknowledg[ing] that we gather together to state our values on lands that have been stewarded through many centuries by the ancestors and descendants of Tribal Nations," a reference to the party’s August convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The platform praises Native American communities that resided in the region, including the Chippewa, the Ho-Chunk Nation, and the Menominee Nation—groups that sided against the United States in the brutal 1812 conflict.

The language represents the leftward shift of the Democratic Party, which has voiced support for Native American sovereignty in its party credo over the past two decades but has not included a preamble honoring specific tribes at the top of the platform until this year.

The Potawatomi, one of the tribes praised by the DNC, clashed with American soldiers in one of the most violent conflicts of the war, the Battle of Fort Dearborn, in which 12 children were killed by indigenous fighters as they attempted to evacuate the fort. The leader of the evacuation, Capt. William Wells, had his heart torn out and eaten by the Native American tribe, according to historical accounts.

The tribe also participated in the Battle of Frenchtown, also known as the "River Raisin Massacre," in which tents for wounded U.S. troops were set on fire by indigenous fighters, and soldiers who tried to escape were killed with tomahawks.

According to the Wisconsin First Nations, the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin "side[d] with the British against the United States. They [were] involved in a number of battles during the war, including the capture of Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island and battles in the Prairie du Chien area."

The United States declared war on Britain in 1812, after clashing with London over trade restrictions and ongoing British military encroachments in the United States. Most Native American groups sided with the British, which had been supplying arms, ammunition, and support to tribal leaders in regional land conflicts with Americans, including the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe.

A representative for the Menominee Tribal Legislature said she disagreed with the language used in the DNC platform because tribal nations no longer hold the land on which the convention will be held.

"[The] statement ‘been stewarded through many centuries by the ancestors and descendants of Tribal Nations who have been here since time immemorial,’ is not correct or accurate," chairwoman Joan Delabreau told the Washington Free Beacon.

The Native American bands honored by the DNC own a number of casinos in Wisconsin, including the Sevenwinds Casino, the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino, the Ho-Chunk Casino, and the Menominee Casino Resort.

The DNC did not respond to a request for comment. The Ho-Chunk Nation, the Potawatomi, and the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa did not respond to requests for comment on the platform.

Published under: DNC