TULSA, Okla. — Vote not just for yourself, also, for the tribe ‒ that is the message Native American leaders want to share with tribal members across the country, hoping they take advantage of the right to vote this election. That right was not guaranteed to Natives by every U.S. state until 1962.
“I think, out of the approximately five million Native Americans, roughly two million are voting age. Out of the two million, I think, close to a million are unregistered to vote,” said Nelson Harjo, manager of the election board for Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
Harjo believes not enough Natives are making their voices heard. The Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation agrees.
“It has been low and I think it’s low across Indian country, unfortunately. I think, if you go to the rural parts of Oklahoma, it’s too low,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said.
When asked why the Native American vote matters, David Wilson of Rock the Native Vote said, “I think it matters because if we don’t participate in the process, non-native people make decisions for us.”
There are four Native American Congress Members: Tom Cole, Sharice Davids, Debra Haaland, and Markwayne Mullin.
Wilson said the good news is they have seen more Natives interested in the 2020 election year.
“Voter registration engagement has not been as high as we hoped it to be, but in 2020 people are being more engaged,” he said.
Wilson added he hopes more people understand voices can make changes when brought to the ballot box.
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