Donald Trump’s Public Relations in Indian Country

Probably one of the most improbable scenarios to run through my head has me questioning the strategy of the Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump. In particular the strategy of communicating with and engaging Indian Country voters.

The 2% of America’s population. That same 2% probably won’t move the needle for him and could be one of the biggest reasons tribal communities haven’t heard from Mr. Trump. There are probably more reasons but I’m not going to go there.

As you eye roll through these sentences just keep in mind that this is hypothetical. If it were the case. I said IF. If I were running Donald Trump’s communication and outreach to Indian Country I would…


Go grassroots with some good old fashion listening session with tribal communities. Do one in each region: West, Midwest, South and East. Get on the phone to speak with tribal leaders and invite them to the listening session. You’re going to have to get through the gate keepers to get to the top of leadership but once they hear you’re from the Trump camp they’ll listen. Most tribes would be welcoming of any presidential candidate and would host an event in their community.

Mr. Trump should put the full court press on and be everywhere voters are spending time which includes social media, tribal newspapers and Native media outlets. I wouldn’t rule out faxes. In fact, I would send some faxes to the tribal buildings because believe it or not, that technology is still being used every single day throughout Indian Country. For real.

The value and willingness for a candidate to take the time to listen to Indian Country is understated. So many times like today our voices are not heard. And by simply showing up the candidate puts himself in a better position for our voters.

Put a statement out that doesn’t include Pocahontas

We get it! Mr. Trump doesn’t like one particular Senator so he’s going to take some jabs. But from here on out we’re going to help and that’s what our messaging would consist of.

So, after hearing what the tribal communities (voters) and tribal leadership have brought to the candidate’s attention via the listening sessions we’re going to say some good stuff about it. Some actual policy would be nice but that’s asking a bit much right off the bat. We’ll most likely start with the low hanging fruit of political speak. The “working together and partnership” phrases. But it’s a start.

This is the fun part. I would love to brainstorm and create the messaging around helping out Indian Country and making our issues part of his platform.

Find the Republicans

There are Native American Trump supporters along with undecided voters. I would find them and get them to our events. Have them help us spread the message of our involvement and engagement of Indian Country.

Pretty simple stuff but when there is a total lack of visibility or acknowledgement of our communities it’s the simple and easy strategy that’ll set the pace for more in depth and strategic communication.

Youth outreach

Mr. Trump has to get in front of Native Youth. With the whole Native Vote initiative somewhat dormant over the past months, there are opportunities for candidates to get the youth involved and get their messages in front of this audience.

There are so many conferences, organizations and initiatives that are focused to our Native youth. Mr. Trump’s campaign could put some energy into identifying these and finding the appropriate messaging for them. The UNITY conference is going on right now in Oklahoma City, OK and having some information, literature or messaging at this conference or any other one would help.

Highly Unlikely?

As a communications professional I’m always looking at ways to improve communication and outreach. There is a huge void in connecting with Indian Country voters and my super quick and brief thoughts are just that. I don’t have political science or polling experts behind my words. All I have is experience working with tribal communities and leadership and know what resonates and can help shape the political narrative. It isn’t that tough but takes a bit of effort. Listening and engaging Indian Country is the foundation of helping our communities and could lead to our votes. Maybe.


I’m not a political science expert. My observations and opinions come on the heels of the Republican National Convention where I was visible but Native issues were invisible. With a convention that had approximately 7 tribes in attendance, these are my thoughts and what would be nice to see from a presidential candidate’s communications standpoint.

Photo credit: Bowen Creative