Desert Companion

Seeing Through a New Lens

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Elizabeth Mercedes Krause stands in front of two vehicles at dusk and stares off into the distance
Photo: Miles Brady

In a crowded midterm, Elizabeth Mercedes Krause is distinguishing herself as proudly Indigenous
 

Elizabeth Mercedes Krause stands on the edge of an encampment in Northern Nevada, looking out over endless hills of sagebrush, watching the sun crest the distant mountains. Her clothing is simple: a sweater wrapped loosely over a shirt bearing the language of her Oglala Lakota people. There’s no sign of political pretense. 

The American Indian Movement members who make up the rest of the camp are quietly rising and going about their morning duties. The purpose is clear: prayer and protest, in an effort to sway public opinion against Lithium Americas’ plan to build a mine at Thacker Pass, an area sacred to several of the region’s tribes. The mine’s ecological consequences and implications for Indigenous land rights are just two of many problems facing the Indigenous community in Nevada today, though its impact could spread throughout the state.

“I just keep thinking, ‘What can I do?’” Krause says.

A moment later, she answers her own question: “Be there, follow the lead of the people who are working to protect (the land) around me, and just do everything that I can to help protect it, too.”

For most of her early life, Krause was, by her own admission, hesitant to speak out, preferring to contribute to her community quietly. The time came, however, when she felt circumstances demanded more voices to call for change in the American political landscape. It was time for her to step up. She decided to run for Congress, taking on incumbent Mark Amodei to represent Nevada’s second congressional district.

Support comes from

“I didn’t always see myself in this position, as being the person who’s actually running,” Krause says, “But I really believe that we can create the community that we want.”

The shape of that community is hotly contested. During the 2022 midterms, fractured sects of political groups have resulted in an identity crisis for both the GOP and Democrats. Establishment ideologies clash with Trumpism on the right and neoprogressivism on the left. The friction has created an environment that can be unforgiving for candidates attempting to stand out from their contemporaries.

But Krause seems undeterred. She’s has taken a different tack entirely, centering her message in an authentic local perspective. The former elementary school teacher describes herself as a “proud citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation,” but also as “battle-born,” raised in Nevada. She’s a mother of three and has been active in the Indigenous community both with her tribe up north and in the southwest, including serving as the chair of the Clark County American Indian/Alaska Native Democratic Caucus. These experiences have led Krause to a unique understanding of what is needed in both the Indigenous and statewide communities, and helped her center her focus on policy.

“What we need are people with more real-life experiences, wider lenses, stepping into leadership roles,” Krause says.

Many in her community agree. Ray Bacasegua Valdez, director of the Northern Nevada chapter of the American Indian Movement, said that Krause’s unique perspective could offer solutions to fraught issues across the nation.

“Well, we’re excited to see a Native woman in a leadership role,” Valdez says, “She’s got a powerful platform, and I think it can help, not just Indian people, but (all) our people today with all the issues we’re having.”

Krause’s platform is built on racial justice, environmental protection, healthcare access, education, and community. She says that in order for representation of all communities to truly matter, it has to lead to strong, lasting improvements for groups who have been left out in the past.

“When we have more lenses available to look at issues and help think of solutions … that is always better,” Krause says. “When we talk about representation for other communities, we need have representation to match what our community looks like. If we want to see a better world, and we want to see change, we have to be solution-focused. That’s the number one priority.” Φ

Hear more: Miles Brady interviews Elizabeth Mercedes Krause on KNPR's State of Nevada

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