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source unknown, found on a sticker at a tribal voter rally at Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
It might be news to some people, but there were a helluva lot of people living here before Europeans "settled" the continent in the 16th century. Depending on whose study you accept, somewhere between 5 and 20 million people inhabited what we call the USA before 1492 (although some put the number at more than 40 million). Only 200 years later, that figure was around 200,000—primarily the result of murder and disease. No matter how you slice it, whether there were 5 or 20 million original inhabitants, that's genocide on an unimaginable scale.

In addition to the loss of life, Native peoples' land, customs, and languages were taken from them. Just a few blocks from where I live, the Phoenix Indian School shorn not only indigenous peoples' hair, but their entire way of life. While children were ripped from their parents' arms and sent to boarding schools in order to be "civilized," many tribes were removed from their traditional hunting and farming lands, and long-marched thousands of miles to places they had never seen, often some of the most desolate landscapes in America. The situation was so dire that many people, including those who supported Indian sovereignty, wondered if America's first citizens would even survive:

"...in the Mexican mountains the whole biota is intact with the single exception of the Apache Indian, who is, I fear, extinct." —Aldo Leopold, 1940
Fortunately, the forester and philosopher Leopold was wrong, and it is a testament to indigenous peoples' strength and resilience that they have not only survived, but endured. Still, until 1924, not all Native Americans had been granted American citizenship, even though they had lived in this land for 13,000 years or more. During WWII, American Indians disproportionately fought and died for this nation, but when they returned to America, they still did not have the right to vote, an injustice that was not corrected until 1948. Just this week, another Navajo Code Talker, George Smith, died at the age of 90. When Mr. Smith, recipient of the Congressional Silver Medal, and his fellow Code Talkers, who played an important role in defeating Japan, came home to the Navajo Nation, they still could not vote in the nation they fought and died for.

And now the injustices are playing out again in 2012, as Indian activists attempt to get more Native people to the polls next week.  

Native American communities nationwide are working hard to tap about 3 million Native American voters, hoping to turn around low voter participation that has persisted in Indian Country for decades. Arizona Republic
     

The reasons for the low voter turnout among Native Americans are understandable. Let's face it: the history of white men telling Indian people they want to help them is not a happy one. Beyond that, many Native communities still lack internet service, even television, so state and national news often does not penetrate their villages in a timely manner. And there remain issues of language and distance. The Navajo Nation, for example, is larger than 11 states, but there are few polling stations, forcing many people to drive hours to cast their vote. In Montana, when Indians requested more voting sites to relieve their people, often elderly, from spending a day or more away from home in order to vote, their appeal was turned down:

In Montana, Indians from the remote Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap reservations sought an emergency order for satellite voting on reservations, arguing that the long distance they must travel to vote early, or register late, puts them at a disadvantage compared with white voters. A federal judge denied their request on Tuesday.

And the same voter ID bullshit that is disenfranchising the elderly, students, African Americans, and Hispanics in mostly GOP-dominated states, is often leaving America's first citizens ballot-less as well.

The [National Congress of American Indians] said in a recent report that voter ID laws could negatively affect participation this year in Native American and Alaska Native communities in 10 states — Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Washington.
Alaska and Florida, for example, do not accept tribal identification cards as valid voter credentials, even though that is the only form of ID many elderly people have. The National Congress of American Indians, which is ecouraging Indian registration and GOTV activities, also says some states are rejecting IDs that lack street addresses, a not uncommon situation for many tribal people.

Here in Arizona, tribal turnout could be a deciding factor in Congressional District 1, which covers almost half the state and includes portions of 11 of Arizona's 22 reservations, including the populous Navajo Nation. The U.S. House seat is currently held by tea party goober Paul Gosar, who beat Democratic incumbent Ann Kirkpatrick during the 2010 tsunami of stupidity (it didn't help that Kirkpatrick ran a terrible campaign). Due to redistricting, which made CD-1 less Republican-friendly, the Sarah Palin-endorsed Gosar moved to Prescott and is seeking the CD-4 House seat.

Meanwhile, Ann Kirkpatrick is running again in CD-1 against former State Senator Jonathan Paton. The airwaves here are flooded with anti-Kirkpatrick ads that say nothing about Paton, who's backed by every rightwing nutball group you can think of. In fact, the ads, funded by outside money, often don't even mention Paton; they just tell you what a terrible person Kirkpatrick is—an Obama supporter no less! According to the Arizona Daily Star, 62 percent of all outside money spent on Arizona's congressional races has gone to Paton's campaign.

Here's hoping the Native American GOTV efforts help turn CD-1 blue again, and save our majestic landscapes from the extractive industries that only see Indian land as a resource to plunder—and a people to forget.

Originally posted to Maggie's Farm on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 02:32 PM PDT.

Also republished by Phoenix Kossacks and Baja Arizona Kossacks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yeah, no kidding. Two diaries below you: (11+ / 0-)

    More evidence.  Modern evidence.  As in today.

    [Sigh] and, yes, I'll settle for Kirkpatrick, but goddammit. She's not a friend to us, either, and Wenona Benally Baldenegro would have been SOOOO  much better . . . .

    Authentic Native American silverwork, jewelry, photography, and other art here.

    by Aji on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 02:34:49 PM PDT

    •  Oh. you are so right about that. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      renzo capetti

      I really wanted to see Wenona win, and Kirkpatrick is such a weak candidate, but consider the alternative ... ugh!

      stay together / learn the flowers / go light - Gary Snyder

      by Mother Mags on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 02:42:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  MM - one nit (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mother Mags

        You might consider a small change in your title to "Americas first residents or inhabitants". I don't think we granted Native Americans actual citizenship prior to the colonists, much to our shame.  

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 07:18:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah, I struggled with that -- was trying to use (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          VClib, Aji

          "citizens" in an ironic and generic way, but your point is well taken so I'll make the change.

          stay together / learn the flowers / go light - Gary Snyder

          by Mother Mags on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 07:39:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  thanks for the diary (5+ / 0-)

            Many people wonder why we don't 'turn out' to vote. There are many reasons and you've explained some of them.

            America could have chosen to be the worlds doctor, or grocer. We choose instead to be her policeman. pity

            by cacamp on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 08:14:56 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I just need to point out here . . . (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mother Mags, Neon Mama, Odysseus

            that your first instincts were perfectly accurate, and there was absolutely no reason for you to change it.  The word "citizen" has a far more fundamental meaning than what an invading colonialist power chooses to give it in legal terms, and by any measure beyond that one, our ancestors were certainly all citizens of this land for thousands of years before Europe realized the world wasn't flat.  

            Authentic Native American silverwork, jewelry, photography, and other art here.

            by Aji on Sat Nov 03, 2012 at 07:19:05 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  It Is Sad At Levels I Can't Express (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, Mother Mags

    in the town I live in, named after a tribe of Indians, but I found that they are no longer around. We killed them all. I am always stunned that folks that live in this town don't seem to even know this or that there isn't more outrage our schools mascots are dancing Indians.

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 02:38:47 PM PDT

    •  webranding - if you have not read (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mother Mags

      Guns, Germs and Steel I would highly recommend it. It won a Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction. It discusses at length the genocide of native populations in North and South America.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 07:20:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  America has had a long tradition of naming new (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mother Mags, Azazello, renzo capetti

    things they killed off whether people or species.

    It's a very sad tradition.

    202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

    by cany on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 02:41:44 PM PDT

  •  correction (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mother Mags, Azazello, renzo capetti, Aji

    your statement:

    until 1924, Native Americans were not granted American citizenship
    is not correct. When the US enacted this legislation, most Indians had already been granted citizenship. In 1919, all Indians who had served in the military during World War I were granted citizenship. Prior to this, the 1887 Dawes Act provided a mechanism by which Indians could obtain citizenship.

    Thanks for posting.

  •  1924 is correct but even then most couldn't vote (5+ / 0-)

    the local and state authorities just refused to go along with Indians voting. There have been several laws since then but the voter supression continues dispite them all.

    In South Dakota and Montana because our reservation people are mainly tax exempt, and there is very little taxable infrastructure, reservation counties contract out their county responsibilities to neighboring counties.

    If you know Indian Country you'll know that most counties bordering reservations are the most racist counties in the state. They seek out ways to screw our people and they hit on a major way a couple of years ago. They just refuse to fund early registration or voting sites on the reservation. Claiming lack of money they demand Indian voters drive to the county seat to register and vote. Where I lived on Pine Ridge it is 160 miles each way to the county seat up in the Black Hills town of Hot Springs. Very few Indians can or will make the effort to go that far so a solidly democratic group of voters sit out every election and allows the GOP to have it.

    A couple of years ago, during the congressional election, the Secretary of State got involved and the ACLU threatened a lawsuit. They finally reached a compromise in which a limited number of sites were opened but the tribe had to find a non-profit organization to fund them. Needless to say they were inadequate in number and duration so Congresswoman Herseth/Sandlin(D) was replaced by teabagger Kristi Noem(R). That's also a reason Senator Dachele lost and Senator Johnson may lose his next election.

    The fault also lies with the democratic party, if they spent some money defending our right to vote they would benefit the most. It only cost a few thousand dollars to open the offices since Indian volunteers did the work but democrats never stepped up to the plate. Because of the native vote in South Dakota democrats are competitive in statewide races. Without the native vote they have no chance.

    America could have chosen to be the worlds doctor, or grocer. We choose instead to be her policeman. pity

    by cacamp on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 08:09:36 PM PDT

    •  Damn. Wish I had heard at the time. (0+ / 0-)
      They finally reached a compromise in which a limited number of sites were opened but the tribe had to find a non-profit organization to fund them.
      [...]
      It only cost a few thousand dollars to open the offices since Indian volunteers did the work but democrats never stepped up to the plate.
      This is the kind of thing we need to know, and we can provide the funds.  Sigh.

      Four figures is easy.

      -7.75 -4.67

      "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

      There are no Christians in foxholes.

      by Odysseus on Sun Nov 04, 2012 at 07:20:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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