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

 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.”

In the letter, provided to CapitolBeatOK, 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

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 * 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, and Al McAffrey become 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.”