“Very few of Georgia’s more than 100,000 voting-age Native Americans cast ballots in November. Even a small increase could make a difference in the Senate runoffs.” M. Astor, The New York Times
Terry Yazzie celebrated in Window Rock, Ariz., after the election. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. received a vast majority of votes from the Navajo Nation. Credit: S. Chischilly for The New York Times
Excerpt:Native Americans Helped Flip Arizona. Can They Mobilize in Georgia? By Maggie Astor, The New York Times
“Marian McCormick lives in Georgia, as do 2,700 other members of the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe. She knows that comes as a surprise to some people.’Here in Georgia, they tend to think that Native Americans were all removed,’ said Ms. McCormick, the principal chief of the tribe, which is based in Whigham.
More than 180 years ago, as part of the Trail of Tears, the United States military drove thousands of Cherokee and Muscogee people off the land they had lived on for centuries and marched them to what is now Oklahoma.… nearly 150,000 Native Americans still live in Georgia, by the Native voting rights group Four Directions’s estimate.
They receive few government services and tend not to participate in nontribal elections, both because they face structural barriers — like hard-to-reach polling places and lack of voter ID — and because of the mistrust built by brutality and broken promises. Of the estimated 100,000 who are of voting age, only about 15,000 are registered to vote.
Organizers and tribal leaders recognize that if even a few thousand more Native Americans were inspired and able to vote in Georgia, they could play a meaningful political role in a closely divided state where two runoff elections on Jan. 5 will decide which party controls the Senate.
Buoyed by remarkable Native American turnout in other states last month, advocates are trying to make that happen at breakneck speed. Ms. McCormick recently spoke with OJ Semans, a co-founder of Four Directions, which is nonpartisan. They agreed to begin a get-out-the-vote campaign with two other state-recognized tribes, the Cherokee of Georgia and the Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee, and to [ask] the [Democratic] Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock to address issues important to Native Americans.
Democrat Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia
Democratic Senator from Georgia Raphael Warnock
Increasing turnout among members of a marginalized community in a month is a tall order, and the deadline to register to vote in the runoffs is even sooner: Dec. 7.
The foundations that groups like Four Directions have spent years building in other states — the networks of volunteers and relationships with tribes — are not so well established in Georgia, and Native Americans there are not as heavily concentrated on tribal land.
Georgia Senators Jon Ossoff and Senator Raphael Warnock at rally in Georgia.
But the examples other states set this year could provide a road map, even if the reward is farther off than January.”