Indigenous and female: Idaho gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan making history
Paulette Jordan, candidate for Idaho governor. | KBOI via AP

A fierce sense of urgency prompted Paulette Jordan to run for governor of Idaho. Her brazen approach worked with her Democratic primary run last Tuesday, May 15th. It will be a first on two levels if she wins in November—as a female governor and as an Indigenous tribal member. Jordan belongs to the Schitsu’umsh, Coeur d’Alene Nation. Schitsu’umsh translates to “Those who were found here.”

Five months ago, when she announced her candidacy, many did not know who she was outside Northern Idaho, tribal, and political circles. Today, she is the fresh face of a tidal wave as Americans are dumping Trump Republicans for a progressive change.

As the Idaho Statesman said in its article, “Following her quick and focused path to victory, now not only does Idaho know who she is, but so does the nation. Run a Google news search today and 24,500 results pop up, including articles from The Atlantic, The Nation, HuffPost, and BuzzFeed.”

CNN traveled to Boise to cover Jordan on Primary Election Day, and more than a dozen national news outlets followed the Idaho polling to learn if someone vying to become the nation’s first Native American governor would win the primary.

“This is our time. This is an opportunity for all of us to stand up for ourselves and drive home a message that we’ve wanted for decades,” Jordan said. “When I talked to individuals, to young people, they are so overwhelmed with the fact that there is a new opportunity and a leader that listens to them.”

Last week’s massive win for Democrats showed that many Republicans and Freedom Caucus members aren’t convincing voters. This welcome change is being duplicated throughout the nation.

Jordan was endorsed by Planned Parenthood, Our Revolution, and Democracy for America. She took 58 percent of the Democratic Primary votes, followed by 40 percent for A.J. Balukoff, while trailing Democrat Peter Dill took only 1 percent.

Jordan’s website states that she first got involved with politics while attending Washington State University. Upon graduation, she moved back to Idaho to become Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council’s youngest member. The year 2014 showcased her political pull, when she won a seat in the House of Representative in the Idaho Capitol. Her 2014 race bumped out an incumbent Republican. She won re-election in 2016.

Now, running for governor, she promises to fight for progressive policy, like the teacher loan forgiveness bill, and hold the line against harmful and unjust legislation. She fights for better rural education, wider access to healthcare, and stronger economic development and opportunity in Idaho’s struggling communities.

Jordan said in an interview with The Nation, “People just aren’t used to thinking that a woman of color, or a woman period, can win.” But that’s changing. “They could lead as chiefs and fight as warrior chiefs,” Jordan said of her grandmothers, one of whom was tribal chair of Colville Confederated Tribes.

“They taught me the way,” she told interviewers. “Even people in the Democratic Party, they aren’t used to envisioning a woman at the top. Yet there are Republican women who know we can get there. There are progressive women in our state who know we can get there. Being young and vibrant and fresh, that plays into a new, bold vision, and strong leadership.”

Jordan is among seven Native American candidates vying for statewide political offices. The candidates are using the social media hashtag #NativeVote18. Indian Country Today reports that over 100 Native Americans are candidates in 2018 races.

Five Quick Facts on Jordan reveals much that the general public might not have known. She is also of Sinkiuse, Nez Perce, and Yakama–Palus descent. “My upbringing was through a broad community of relatives and elders and a strong set of parents. Each of these people taught me the value of respect, humility, and character, and to walk this life with compassion towards others,” she has said. Her mother was elated when pop icon Cher endorsed Jordan. They appeared together at the National Women’s Rally in Las Vegas in January.

In a Facebook statement, as elsewhere, Jordan acknowledges a traditional Indigenous upbringing, “My beautiful Aunt Dianne and my baby cousin Rosanna. My Aunt was my second mother, raising me in tandem with my own mother. She was brilliant, well-educated, kind, generous, a devoted family woman, prayerful, and honest with everyone. I was blessed to have her in my life and to have been supported by her since my birth,” she wrote, adding that her aunt fought a battle with cancer.

Idaho and other states are reversing the tide from the disastrous Trump agenda. Indigenous women have always been strong leaders. Paulette Jordan lives up to this truth in a big way.


Mark Maxey
Mark Maxey

Oklahoman Mark Maxey is a Yuchi Indian, enrolled in the Muscogee Nation, and has a degree in radio/TV/film. He is a member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO. He’s worked as an administrative assistant, petroleum landman, barista, staff writer, paralegal, content producer and graphic designer. He spent six months as a National Data Team volunteer for the Bernie Sanders for President campaign.