For Early-Bird Delegates, Willie Nelson and a Killer Seat


BOSTON—The minder caught Patsy Whitefoot kissing Carole King.

“She played earlier,” Whitefoot cooed, after King’s chaperone had broken up the embrace. Whitefoot, from White Swans, Washington, is a state delegate. She has eight grandchildren, and lives on the Yakama Indian Reserve. “Millions of dollars are not getting to my reservation,” she said. “You see it in the schools. In the lack of roads and construction. The vocational training. And we’re fighting—oooh, there’s Willie Nelson!”

Whitefoot grabbed this reporter to get a better look. She waved at Willie, who was about to start his sound check. Willie smiled and waved back. “He waved! Willie hangs around with some of the tribes.” Willie stopped, and Whitefoot got back to the problems of her reservation, home to a population of 10,000. “Poverty rates are really high, and people are suddenly unemployed, without benefits.” The Democrats, she said, have an agenda for tribes. And she noted, they have a plan for the economy. Then Willie started up again, singing, “There’s room for everyone living in this precious land.”

“That’s why I come early,” she said.

On the other side of the convention center, Cynthia Marroquin-Henley, a delegate from California, came early to get a good seat. “They don’t have enough seats for our delegation,” she said, having managed to secure herself a spot six rows from the floor, with a perfect view of the two speaker’s podiums.

“Will the election make a difference? Are you kidding? My life is a child and day care; my mother, who has epilepsy; and my father, who is legally blind.”

Free Willie!

photo: Kareem Fahim

Insurance coverage had lapsed, and day care can eat up a paycheck, she said. “I can’t believe what seniors go through,” she said. “Bush hasn’t done anything.”

Marroquin-Henley, who is also Native American, recruited her brother, a solid Republican, to babysit her daughter during the convention. “My mission now is to go back and get my community to vote.” By community, she meant the Alabama-Coushatta tribe, in Livingston, Texas. “I didn’t learn anything from my parents about voting. Now I’m trying to get everyone else in my family to understand.”