This year shed light on the impact of white supremacy, racism, systemic oppression and institutionalized racism on Indigenous, Black, Brown, Asian, Immigrant, Two-Spirit, LGBTQ + and non-binary parents. But those of us who come from these communities have always known that these economic and social inequalities exist. Because of the lived experiences of our communities, many of us were born into advocacy work for the next generations in the fight for racial, social, economic and environmental justice.
As a Lakota woman, I believe in Mitakuye Oyasin – the concept that we are all connected, or all of my relationships – because as indigenous people we do not just look to our own parents and our community, but we recognize that all people and all things are connected. This person, animal or resource is not above another: we live in harmony and in connection with our people, our lands, our traditions, our ceremonies and our way of life. For me, this is why it is so important to vote.
It is true that the Indian country faces barriers to civic engagement and voting. Polling stations are rare and sometimes inaccessible due to the locations of our reservations or a lack of transportation. Many natives have ânon-traditional addressesâ and rely on PO Boxes, which were used as a voter suppression tool in North Dakota ahead of the 2018 midterm election. Additionally, the Postal Service American does not deliver mail to many of our communities due to poor roads or unnamed streets. Other challenges include language barriers for our seniors with few translated documents available, difficulty obtaining ID cards, and a lack of internet access to help resolve these and other issues. As tribal leaders have mobilized in response to these obstacles, it is important that the entire community continues to go to the polls.
When we come together to hold government accountable and participate in the process of informed policy making, we can prioritize health care, mental health services, the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, rights and equality of two-spirit parents, and education. The pandemic has made our needs even more evident. Even at the start of the pandemic, when lawmakers were crafting the COVID-19 stimulus package, tribal governments were significantly underfunded and aid was delayed. Then we saw some of the highest per capita infection rates in the Navajo Nation, the White Mountain Apache Nation, and across the United States in some of our smaller communities. Indigenous people have survived epidemics, pandemics and genocides. We have lost a lot of our loved ones since 1492 and with this new virus we are losing more.
If we vote, we can also choose leaders from our own communities who will understand and represent our interests, respect our sovereignty, and ensure that the United States lives up to its treaty obligations that have too often been ignored. Without accurate and respectful representation, Indigenous people will not be championed and included in important discussions, from policies to pipelines. According to Native Vote, we have four Indigenous Congressmen in the United States House of Representatives. If the representation in Congress was proportional to the Native American population, we would have two Senators and eight Native members in the House. Civic engagement is the way we can make it happen!
While we know that the current political system and frameworks have always excluded us and never benefited us, we can exercise our voice and presence in this colonial system by ensuring that we vote and are counted. To make sure we are heard, we need to take three steps: complete the enumeration today, register to vote, and vote. Every element counts.
Complete your census
Data from the 2020 census will help determine the allocation of seats in Congress, the redistribution of electoral districts, and could impact the distribution of nearly $ 1 billion in annual federal resources for the Indian country, which already represents a small slice of the federal budget. The government is using census data to inform policy changes and funding formulas for essential programs the Indian country needs: education, health care, senior programs, child care, roads, housing and development economic.
But according to the National Congress of American Indians “Indian Country Counts,” Native American and Native American parents were underestimated by almost 5% in the 2010 census. A large portion of us live in “difficult areas”. counting â(HTC) with respect to the census, with 52.4% of Native Americans and Native Americans in South Dakota living in HTC leaflets – 78.6% in New Mexico, 68.1% in Arizona, 65 , 6% in Alaska and 49.9% in Montana.
With our struggling communities, even with our resilience and all the hard work we do, we need to make sure that we are counted in the census so that our needs can be met. The response time has been cut short with a deadline of October 15, so there is still at least a day left to send the message we are counting on.
Register to vote
According to Native Vote, 34% of the total Native American population and Native Americans over the age of 18, alone or in combination with another race, are not registered to vote. This means that we have around 1.2 million potential new eligible voters who can participate in rebuilding this democratic system.
With elections already underway, in many states it is not too late to register and help others to do the same. For example, in the occupied Tonvangaar lands, also known as Los Angeles, California, where I live, people can still register to vote until October 19 and can still apply for a mail-in ballot until October 19. ‘to October 27. The California Native Vote Project offers resources and help to get people registered in the state. In South Dakota, where I am, a citizen of the Lower Brule Indian Reservation in South Dakota as Kul WiÄasa Lakota, voters can also register until October 19. Indigenous voters across the country can check if they are registered through Natives Vote 2020.
Why do I choose to vote
Once you’ve completed the census and registered to vote, the next critical step is to vote. I vote because I don’t want to remain silent and complicit in a system that perpetuates systemic oppression and racism. There are no perfect candidates, and I know the choices we have for this November election are not what many of us want. Some believe that their participation in a colonial system by voting makes them accomplices accomplices. Many may think that they cannot vote for either option for president because it goes against what they believe as survivors of sexual assault. I just want to say that I hear you, I see you and I understand. But when we exercise our right to vote and elect leaders who can point us in the direction we need for everyone’s future, we can truly make a lasting impact.
This is especially true with local and state elections, which are just as important as the presidential election. Many changes are happening locally, which in turn create and support national legislation. Local elections are our opportunity to ensure that our communities can benefit from politics and fight against the social and economic inequalities closest to us.
While long lines, few voting centers, and a lack of support can make civic engagement frustrating, we need to stay strong. All of our communities must be visible and our voices must be heard. When we vote, we stand up. Let’s get up together.
Jordan is the Founder and Organizer of Rising Hearts, a Professional Runner with Altra Team Elite, a Project Manager at UCLA School of Medicine, a Filmmaker, a Society Fellow with Return to the Heart Foundation, and the 2018 NCAIED Native recipient. American 40 under 40. His work is rooted in elevating and creating platforms to promote Indigenous visibility, representation and intersectionality of all movements fighting for justice, and in organizing events to call for justice. allies and relatives. Jordan is a fourth generation Lakota runner and activist.
Prism is a nonprofit media run by BIPOC that focuses on people, places and issues currently underestimated by our national media. Through our original reporting, analysis and commentary, we challenge the dominant and toxic narratives perpetuated by the mainstream press and strive to create a complete and accurate record of what is happening in our democracy. follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.