By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Diana Kerry transitioned from a meeting about serious obstacles facing Native Americans to a Havre rally in support of her brother and other Democratic candidates on Saturday during a two-day visit to north-central Montana this weekend.
The sister of presidential candidate John Kerry, she was the first person connected with a presidential campaign to pass through the area in more than 50 years. It was Diana Kerry's second visit to Montana, possibly the only non-battleground state she visited, her aide said.
The last time someone connected with a presidential campaign came through Havre was in 1948, when Harry Truman's came through on a whistlestop tour, Hill County Democratic Party chair Debi Friede said.
On Saturday Kerry visited Stone Child College on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation for a question and answer period that focused on issues specific to Native Americans. That evening she stopped for a reception at the Eagles Club in Havre, the only traditional rally she attended on the trip. Sunday, Kerry visited Fort Belknap College and then went on to Browning, to participate in a similar discussion at Blackfeet Community College.
Kerry came to Montana for the first time in July to campaign. One reason for the return trip was to visit more Indian reservations, she said.
"I've been working on getting out the vote among populations that are probably ... not ready to go to the polls, people living overseas and Native Americans," Kerry said.
Kerry has campaigned for her brother in Europe and Canada, heading the organization Americans Overseas for Kerry.
Kerry said that as a history teacher, she has always had an interest in different cultures. Her plan for this trip was to talk to groups of Native Americans and then to make sure her brother hears about it, she said.
"The record is not a good one for politicians coming in and asking for votes and then not delivering," Kerry said. She added, "I will hold my brother's feet to the fire" to make sure that does not happen again.
At the meeting, Lena Belcourt, who works at the Rocky Boy Health Department, told Kerry about disparities in health care between Native Americans and the general population. Melody Henry, dean of student services at Stone Child College, said her students do not get enough support in the way of grants and scholarships.
At the Eagles Club, Kerry spoke briefly before a crowd of 150 supporters. Each of the area Democratic candidates and government officials was identified, with applause.
"I'm here to support Democratic candidates from the top, all the way down," Kerry said. "Even when there are reputed to be totally red states, it's wonderful to meet" with such support.
Kerry mentioned the importance of supporting the elderly, teachers, veterans and Native Americans.
After the reception, onlooker Shaylee Lewis said, "I Kerry mentioned the importance of supporting the elderly, teachers, veterans and Native Americans.
After the reception, onlooker Shaylee Lewis said, "I came here because I wanted to keep informed. It was interesting that someone from this campaign came."
There were a lot of children in the room. Sunnyside Intermediate School fifth-grader Dolan Tuss said, "she looks a lot like Kerry. It's been a good experience."
After the reception, as people filed out, Friede said, "This was what we were hoping for."