Democrat Ponka-We Victors was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives
in 2010 in the face of a wave of Republican victories that swept across
the state. As a young, first-term legislator, Victors, the first American
Indian woman elected to the Kansas legislature, garnered state headlines
in 2012 when she urged colleagues to reject proposals for strict immigration-enforcement
laws during a hearing of the House Federal and State Affairs committee.
Personally, said Victors, my people have been fighting
immigration since 1492. It doesnt get any better.
Indian Country Today
Media Network caught up with Representative Victors, 2006 Miss Indian
Nations, who began her second term in the 2013 Kansas Legislature
in early January.
is your tribal affiliation?
your background and upbringing shape and influence your politics?
I am an enrolled member of the Tohono Oodham Nation
of Arizona and a member of the Southern Ponca Nation of Oklahoma.
I have also been adopted into several tribes throughout North America
and have established strong relationships with many people.
I come from humble beginnings. I was taught to appreciate my
ancestors for the sacrifices they endured so that future generations
would have additional opportunities. My parents provided a stable
environment in order to provide me with a culture of traditions and
education. Even though I was raised in Wichita, I remained close to
our ceremonies and developed a desire to learn from my elders. The
Tohono Oodham Nation Reservation has also been my home, and
it was there that I grew to learn and treasure the value of living
in both the modernized and traditional world.
made you decide to run for political office?
The weak structure of services that has left our Native people
relying upon limited resources opened up my eyes at a very young
age. As a child I can remember sitting in the [Indian Health Services]
emergency room for hours. I questioned then why we had to wait so
long to be seen and to receive medical attention. In 2005, as a
Morris K. Udall Native American Congressional Intern in Washington,
D.C., I saw firsthand how our Indian services and budgets were being
cuteducation, health-care and economic programs. Im
a descendent of the Great Ponca Chief Standing Bear, who was influential
and [became] significant in Native American legal history when he
defeated U.S. District courts in a landmark case in 1879. His vision
and determination to create change played a substantial role in
inspiring me to get involved in politics. I strongly believe he
is a guiding force within me to do good for all Native people. I
believe he paid an enormous price in order for me to have this opportunity
to uphold this political position.
recently failed to reauthorize the 1994 Violence Against Women Act.
How important do you think that bill is?
It is terrible that it did not pass due to partisan issues.
It is times like this that we need bipartisan efforts to help support
our women. I support any kind of legislation that will help protect
our Native women in Kansas. However, there is always room for progress
and improvement. I believe this is an opportunity for our Native
American lawyers and professionals [to] make the Violence Against
Women Act even stronger. Meanwhile, it would be sensible for our
own tribal governments to examine the prospects of creating additional
support and laws that address this issue on our own reservations.
that the Indian Health Care Improvement Act under ObamaCare has
permanent reauthorization, what changes do you see happening in
Indian health care?
I hope the authors of this act had the first people of this
nation in mind when they created this bill. We have a long ways
to go, but I am optimistic that this will help boost and revitalize
our deteriorating health-care system.
becoming governor of Kansas in 2010, Sam Brownback issued an apology
to Indian tribes of Kansas for past wrongs in dealings with the
state. Do you feel this accomplished anything meaningful for the
four tribes of Kansas?
I believe that any time a government official publicly apologizes
to the Native American people and community for the wrongdoings
of the past, it can only be perceived as a positive and respectful
gesture. Its an opportunity to strengthen government-to-government
relationships and to move forward. I believe the Governor is willing
to work with the tribes of Kansas. We all need to work together,
since we all have one thing in common, such as loving the state
of Kansas. Last year, I established the first-ever Native American
Day at the Kansas state capitol. It was an opportunity for tribes
to talk to their representatives and senators about concerns and
issues. The governor supported Native American Day with an official
you feel the chances are for an Indian to be appointed to the Supreme
I feel it is about time that we have someone in that position. I
am confident about the future since we have so many young Native
Americans who are not only entering fields of law but other important
fields as well, where we can have a voice. I never thought that
I would be in politics, but I am. Its important to go after
your dreams, because it is worth the sacrifices. It is important
that we take every opportunity that comes our way because our ancestors
paid the ultimate sacrifice, and we cant forget where we come
from, no matter what position or office we hold.