Category Archives: Politics

Obstacles Native Voters Face in the 2018 Midterms

“Native Americans have low participation rates in federal and state elections, but the problem doesn’t lay with political passivism.” A. Smith High Country News

A man walks by a mural in Albuquerque that promotes voter rights for Native Americans and other minority groups.Mark Ralston:AFP:Getty Images

Excerpt: 5 obstacles for Native voters in the November midterms , Anna Smith High Country News

In November, voters will see a record number of Native American candidates on the ballot running for all areas of government; state legislatures, governorships and Congressional seats. Today, just 81 Native Americans hold office in state legislatures across the U.S. In Western states, Native voters make up significant voting blocs. The Indigenous voting population is also young and growing, and with that comes political potential.

Still, Native American turnout in the 2012 election was low, between 5 and 15 percent lower than other groups depending on the location. Native Americans still face roadblocks like inequitable voter identification laws. Here are five issues tribal citizens face in casting their votes:

1. Non-traditional mailing addresses and distance to in-person voting

A high number of tribal members live in rural areas far from in-person voting locations, meaning they rely on mail-in ballots. But while those are gaining popularity in some states, they present a myriad of problems for tribal citizens who don’t have mailing addresses, live far from their P.O. boxes and check them irregularly, or who move often.

Native American Rights Fund

2. Limited English proficiency and inadequate translation services

Language barriers in Native communities can lead to lower turnouts in elections, especially if voters do not receive adequate translation services. Under the Voting Rights Act, election information must be translated to the Native language where there are high concentrations of people who only speak an Indigenous language, like in Alaska, New Mexico and Arizona.

Northern Edge Navajo Casino, near Farmington, New Mexico.

3. Restrictive election laws

A number of election laws have effects on people’s ability to participate in elections. That played out this last week when the Supreme Court approved voter identification laws in North Dakota, requiring a street address, not a P.O. box, be displayed on a voter’s ID. But tribal IDs don’t always include addresses, and many tribal citizens, who may live in remote areas with no mail service or have impermanent living situations, use P.O. boxes instead of permanent addresses.

Image- VOA

4. Voter purges

In February, the Navajo Nation purged 52,000 voters from their rolls who did not vote in the 2016 and 2014 elections. County governments have also purged voters from their rolls, meaning voters are no longer registered and cannot vote, such as Apache County in Arizona in 2012…In that case, according to the Native American Voting Rights Coalition, the county purged 500 Navajo voters because their addresses were deemed “too obscure.”

5. Unequal internet access

The broadband disparity in Indian Country also affects election turnout. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 41 percent of tribal citizens living on tribal lands in the U.S. don’t have access to high-speed internet. In some rural areas, that number jumps to 68 percent. That impacts online voter registration, as well as information gathering about candidates and ballot measures.

In Nevada, a measure on the ballot this fall could help with issues of registration, proposing that when people register at the DMV, they would be automatically registered to vote. Such laws already exist in Oregon and California.

Category: Politics

U.S. Gov. Strips Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Sovereignty…Warning to All Native Nations!

“The federal government has ruled that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe does not qualify for a reservation, effectively reversing an Obama-era decision to place 321 acres into federal trust for the tribe. The Mashpee Wampanoag say that their ancestors have occupied the land in southeastern Massachusetts since before human memory. Tribal leaders are equating this decision to policies like the 1887 General Allotment Act, which sought to assimilate native people into mainstream American culture by dissolving reservation land.” WBUR Radio

Mashpee Wampanoag protest trump administration ruling. The Boston Globe

Excerpt: Mashpee Wampanoag Confront ‘Loss Of Self-Governance’ After Interior Department Reversal — WBUR

Cedric Woods, director of the Institute for New England Native American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston, speaks with Here & Now‘s Peter O’Dowd about what this decision means for the Mashpee Wampanoag and for Indian Country more broadly.

Interview Highlights

“It’s extremely significant for a tribe to have territory over which it can exercise undisputed civil and criminal jurisdiction. And that’s exactly what the reservation status creates. When you look at federal Indian law as it’s evolved from the 19th century forward, the power to tax tribes is the power to destroy. By having the land in trust, that removes that threat from tribes.

Cedric Cromwell. Wampanoag Tribal leader at senate meeting. Photo- Falmouth Enterprise

 

Relatively recently, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that in order for the federal government to take land into trust in behalf of a tribe, it had to be under federal jurisdiction at the time of the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934.

My preliminary analysis of this ruling is that the Department of the Interior differentiates between federal awareness that the tribe existed, which it absolutely did, at the time of the Indian Reorganization Act, versus federal jurisdiction. And they did not see that the Mashpee Wampanoag met that standard.

Jessie Baird. Jessie (Little Doe) Baird, vice chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag testifies to the U.S. Senate. Photo- Falmouth Enterprise

 

On what the tribe stands to lose:

The loss of self-governance is a way to destroy tribes. Whether it’s civil action or civil activities like the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s language immersion school, or criminal jurisdiction, both of those things are essential powers of self-governance.

Zoning for construction of homes, a civil code to regulate domestic relationships like custody of children, marriages, divorces — all those things that we think of in the general way that governments function, that’s being removed now from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

On the historical relationship between tribal nations and the federal government:

This decision is very much part of a broader pattern. Vine Deloria Jr., one of the foremost American Indian intellectuals of the 20th century, described federal Indian policy as like a pendulum, swinging from one extreme to another, with some federal actions being relatively pro-Indian to those being violently anti-Indian and racist. And we’ve seen the entire spectrum of things even in the 20th century.

On whether lawmakers will support a congressional bill to protect the tribe’s reservation land:

They may not want to, but I’d say they’re morally obligated to do so. The Indian Reorganization Act was passed to undo the harm done by the General Allotment Act. Nothing was ever passed in Massachusetts or at the federal level to undo the harm of the Massachusetts Allotment Act. And both are due for remedies.”

Category: Politics

Natives Do Not Trust Brett Kavanaugh!

“Many Native Americans worry that Supreme Court justice candidate Brett Kavanaugh could work to restrict tribal sovereignty, which they say is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.” VOA

Photo- VOA

Excerpt:  Native Americans Worry Trump Supreme Court Pick Threatens Sovereignty-VOA

“Native Americans have expressed concern about Trump’s pick for Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh… Many believe that Kavanaugh does not recognize the sovereignty of tribes, which govern themselves as independent nations within the United States.

Tribal nations, through hundreds of treaties with the government, ceded more than half a billion hectares of land in exchange for reservations, services, protections and rights — chief of which was sovereignty, the right to rule themselves and make decisions about how to use their own land.

Alaska Natives Press Lisa Murkowski to REJECT Brett Kavanaugh

Their sovereignty, they argue, was recognized by America’s founding fathers and is implicit in the wording of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the power ‘to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.’ But the nature of the relationship began to change in the 19th century.

‘We went from an era of sovereign-to-sovereign relationships into an era of military conquest by the U.S. of tribes and their territories,’ said Harvard University international economics professor Joseph P. Kalt, an expert on tribal sovereignty. ‘Tribes depend pretty heavily on lots of federal statutes to create a place for tribes to govern — things like the Indian Child Welfare Act, the authority of the Interior Department to acquire land in trust for tribes so that they can expand their land bases,’ said Matthew L. M. Fletcher, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in Michigan…But when lower court cases get to the Supreme Court, in some cases, a 200-year precedent doesn’t seem to matter.

He said many tribes worry that if a conservative Republican like Kavanaugh is confirmed, the Supreme Court could reverse some of the gains they’ve made over the last 40 years, particularly with regard to the environment…The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has urged tribal leaders to watch the confirmation hearings carefully, noting that Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom Kavanaugh would replace, was a key vote on important tribal issues.”

Category: Native Rights, Politics

Joe Shirley Jr. and Jonathan Nez are the Candidates for Navajo President!

“Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez will face former tribal president Joe Shirley Jr. for the tribal presidency in the November general election after they finished as the top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s primary election.” N. Lyn Smith, AZ Central

Navajo Nation Presidential candidate Joe Shirley Jr. walks with his supporters Tuesday at the Window Rock Sports Center  (Photo- Jon Austria:The Daily Times)

J. Nez thanks his supporters. Photo- .Canora Courierjpeg

Excerpt: Nez, Shirley top presidential race in tribe’s primary election, By N. Lyn Smith, AZ Central

‘It’s a humbling thing that happened tonight. There was overwhelming support from the Navajo people,’ Nez said in an interview…With the top contender established early in the night, attention turned to who would be the runner-up, which was a close race between Shirley and Tom Chee.

Approximately 500 votes separated the two men throughout the evening. Chee eventually finished in third with 6,411 votes. Shirley’s supporters made their presence known as they entered the sports center with shouts of ‘Shirley strong.’

‘What can I say? Other than that I feel glad, I feel like a winner. I didn’t have any doubts that we’d be here. We worked hard and had a good team in place and looking forward to the real race that’s going to begin,’ Shirley said in an interview after hugging Nez. He commended Nez for running a good campaign.

Joe Shirley.

‘It’s not about coming in No. 1 or No. 2 for primaries, it’s just about making it,’ Shirley said.”

Category: Politics

Navajo President Begaye Tells Officials to Grow UP…Seriously?

“President Russell Begaye called out chapter officials in his state of the nation address before the Navajo Nation Council Monday, stressing that they have to be accountable to their people… The chiding struck some observers as ironic.”K. Krisst, Navajo Times

Excerpt: Begaye to chapter officials: Grow up! By Kima Krisst, Navajo Times,

“How long are the chapters going to be treated like children?” Begaye asked. ‘You guys are adults, grown men and women. Stop fighting and stop mismanaging the people’s money and make good decisions on behalf of your people. You were elected because people placed their faith and trust in you. It’s time to grow up.’

They [chapter members] noted Begaye might consider this kind of tough-talk approach with his daughter, former legal counsel Karis Begaye, recently charged with DWI and totaling a Navajo Nation vehicle. Tribal investigators are now demanding reimbursement for the vehicle.”

Excellent comic by renown Navajo Editorial Cartoonist Jack Ahasteen.

Comic Jack Ahasteen Navajo Times

 

Category: Politics

Trudie Jackson: The First Trans-Native Running For Navajo Nation President!

“Since 1991, the Navajo People have elected a president for their nation,  and the date to officially file and run is May 17 with a closing date of May 30.   One of the people who is attempting to get on the ballot for the August 28 primary election is Trudie Jackson, a longtime advocate from Arizona who is Native American and trans.” M. Roberts, TransGriot

Trudie Jackson for Navajo Nation president 2018

Excerpt: Trudie Jackson Attempting A Historic Run For Navajo Nation President by Monica Roberts, TransGriot

“Ya’tah – my name is Trudie Jackson and my clans are: Bitterwater and Folded Arms, then the Mexican and Yucca-Strung-Out-In-A-Line from Teec Nos Pos, AZ on the beautiful Navajo Nation. I am a product of Indian Boarding School and Indian Student Placement Program.

Trudie Jackson

Upon relocating to Phoenix, AZ in 1984 to pursue my high school education at the Phoenix Indian School, I decided to stay in Phoenix which lead to 34 years. Ultimately, my experience as an urban Navajo taught me many life lessons of learning to survive in urban spaces. I have learned so much and challenged myself to walk into spaces, which at times, meant being the only American Indian to advocate and be the voice for my community as a proud Dine’.

Over the course of years, I have stood on the sidelines and made my observations of the political climate on the Navajo Nation by elected tribal leaders of what they propose as their platform to lift the Navajo Nation as an effective leader that leads for the betterment of the Navajo Nation.

I can not continue to stand on the sideline and allow the ongoing unethical practices by elected tribal officials to ‘take from the people’ and fill their pockets and/or luxury lifestyles. If I continue to stand on the sideline, I am just adding more fuel and allowing it to continue without interjection. Enough is enough!

With that said, I have decided to enter the race for the 2018 Navajo Nation Presidential Election. I want my people to judge me on my leadership skills and qualities. I would like to bring home the knowledge that I have learned and gained whiled residing off the Navajo reservation and help lift My People to create a better place, which we can all call, home.’

I ask for your support, as a candidate for the 2018 Navajo Nation Presidential Election.  Ahe’hee, Trudie”

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