Ruth Buffalo Wears Traditional Native American Dress For Historical Swearing in Ceremony: 'It’s Part of My Identity'

Ruth Buffalo — the first Native American Democratic woman elected into North Dakota’s state legislature — wore a traditional Native American dress during her swearing-in ceremony earlier this week.

On Monday, Buffalo, who unseated Republican state Rep. Randy Boehning last month in North Dakota’s 27th legislative district, stood proudly in traditional clothing, complete with an ornate eagle feather fan, alongside over a dozen other newly-elected Representatives in North Dakota’s capital of Bismarck.

“It’s part of my identity and who I am,” Buffalo told the Huffington Post, referring to her outfit. “It was to honor my ancestors, those that have gone before me, and the future generation.”

According to the publication, Buffalo is a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. Her clan brother gave her the fan just hours earlier.

“Eagle feathers in our culture are very significant,” she said. “Oftentimes they’re gifted to people when they’ve accomplished a great achievement.”

To avoid disrupting the proceedings, Buffalo asked the House minority leader for permission to don the garb in advance.

Since the ceremony, an image of Buffalo raising her fist and smiling, taken by photographer Lea Black, has gone viral on social media, with thousands of shares and several hundred comments.

“It’s exciting, but it’s an indicator that people want more of that. More representation that looks like them ― that they can relate to,” Buffalo said.

Following her win last month, Scott McNeil, the executive director of the North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League, told the New York Times that Buffalo “ran not necessarily as a Native American woman, but as a woman in Fargo who wanted to talk about issues that were affecting her community."

Buffalo’s successful campaign largely focused on education funding, property taxes, and healthcare.

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