(Katherine Swampy voting Tuesday in Alberta where she says she experienced racism during the campaign)
APTN National News
EDMONTON–An Alberta First Nation NDP candidate said she experienced an overwhelming amount of racism on the campaign trail.
Katherine Swampy, 28, of Maskwacis joined the NDP team vying to win over the votes of local constituents after deciding to get into politics when she took issue with the latest provincial budget and tax increases.
Although she was no stranger to racism, the high amount she experienced during her campaign took her by surprise.
“Racism is something I endured my entire life and it’s nothing new,” said Swampy. “I received a tremendous amount of hate mail and endured racism throughout my campaign.”
She was told by many of her Devon-Drayton Valley constituents that they were wanting to support NDP but felt they couldn’t because, “you’re native” or “you’re an Indian.”
Another common comment she received from people was to “quit trying to turn Alberta into a reserve.”
Swampy said that although she is First Nations, she ran as an Albertan and her platform catered to all Albertans.
“Many people commented or asked how Aboriginal issues would help them or that they wouldn’t help them, but my platform was about investments, education, healthcare, senior care and jobs. They weren’t about Aboriginal issues, although this was a big part of the NDP platform.”
“I received a tremendous amount of hate mail and endured racism throughout my campaign.” Katherine Swampy
One shocking comment topped them all.
Someone referenced murdered and missing Indigenous women when they posted on her Facebook campaign page, “I support NDP and Katherine Swampy in her campaign. It’s just too bad she has higher chance of coming up missing than she does of winning this constituency.”
Swampy took the post down immediately.
“As insulted and hurt as I was when I got it,” said Swampy. “It probably gave me that extra push. I wanted to prove these people wrong.”
She said it didn’t let it get the best of her.
Swampy said she worked hard throughout her campaign and knocked on doors where no one else was going.
It was the first time people from Maskwacis had a provincial candidate reach out to them.
Swampy finished in third place, but still feels her efforts made an impact.
“My achievements in this election were not just my own, it lifted my entire community. I was told that my efforts as an Aboriginal woman had an effect throughout the province as this election had more Aboriginal voters than ever before.”
“At the start of the campaign we expected to receive the same amount of respect as other Albertans but were quickly reminded that hate is still among us,” Chevi Rabbit.
Swampy said that it was the support of her family and friends that kept her encouraged throughout her campaign.
Long-time friend and Edmonton based human rights advocate Chevi Rabbit knows what it feels like to experience hate.
In 2012 he was attacked in Edmonton by a group of men who were taunting him with homophobic insults.
Since then, Rabbit has started an annual awareness march called “From Hate to Hope.”
Rabbit worked alongside Swampy to support her throughout her campaign.
“At the start of the campaign we expected to receive the same amount of respect as other Albertans but were quickly reminded that hate is still among us,” said Rabbit.
“We both work twice or maybe three times harder to prove ourselves, but unlike the bigots that targeted Katherine we will continue to see the good in others,” said Rabbit. “We believe in Alberta and will continue to build inclusive and accepting environments.”
“It was the only party that had any type of platform that included Indigenous people. I am super proud. I’m unbelievably proud that we are the new government,” ended Swampy.
Swampy is a busy mother of five and will graduate from the University of Alberta this month with a degree in Economics.
She said she plans to seek the NDP nomination for her riding for the upcoming federal election.