Nine Native Americans have served in the Minnesota state legislature since the state's founding, and all of them have been men. But on Tuesday, The Land of 10,000 Lakes chose via special election its first ever Native American woman to serve on its state legislature, and the first Native American lesbian to ever serve in any state legislature anywhere.
Susan Allen (not to be confused with the wife of Republican Virginia Senator George Allen) is the polar opposite of her fellow Minnesota countrywoman Michele Bachmann. She's a progressive rather than a Tea Partier, she lives in a mixed income Minneapolis neighborhood rather than a McMansion in the exurbs, and she's a lesbian rather than a lesbian-fixer. Additionally, Allen has vowed to fight for defeat of Minnesota's constitutional marriage amendment, which would effectively make same-sex marriage illegal in the state. Michele Bachmann is one of the leading architects of a previous failed attempt to legally define marriage as between one man and one woman.
Allen's credentials are the sort of thing that makes the average privileged person living in comfort feel like a slouch. MPR reported back in December that Allen, now 48, grew up on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, one of the most poverty-stricken swaths of untenable land in the US. Her father was an Evangelical priest, and the family frequently moved. When she was a single mother in her early 20's and on government assistance, she relied public transportation to get to and from her law school classes. She's got experience working in tribal and tax law, and as of last year was a partner in her firm. By all accounts, she's an all-around intimidatingly kickass, groundbreaking lady.
She doesn't get to rest on her laurels for long, though. Allen's up for reelection already in November.
If Michele Bachmann and Susan Allen are ever in the same room at the same time, they're fated to an epic arm wrestling match. My money's on Allen.