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American Indian Movement of Colorado

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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Voting in national elections-varying views

In an earlier blog entry, one of our members summarized 2 popular and opposing views that Indian people hold when it comes to particpating in State elections.

"There are those who would argue that there is a need for the Indian Nations to be involved in this process because these elections have more potential impact on them than do the tribal elections on the various reservations regarding the making available of federal funds for education, health, economic development, etc. There are also those who would argue as sovereign nations that we should not be directly involved in the internal political elections of a foreign nation (the US), but rather should respect our own sovereignty enough to remain separated from the US and state political processes."

As the U.S elections approach, we will be posting articles, essays and perspectives that reflect both of these views.

Todays' web edition of the "New London Day" carries an article entitled "American Indians Being Pushed To Polls This Year" The article reports on the potential impact that the U.S "indian vote" may have on the November elections, despite having a small population. By bringing their members to the polls, tribal votes are shaping up to be the "swing vote" in some contested states.

There was a lot of talk about native power at the polls last week during NCAI's midyear session at Mohegan Sun.

“The visibility we have is going to change America, and people have to stand up and look at us for who we are,” said Ernie Stevens, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association. “We are noble Americans who have fought and died for this country.”

Casino tribes have become major donors to political campaigns in recent years, and the tribes are now funding the effort for greater participation at the polls. The Mohegans provided $10,000 in “key seed money” to the Four Directions Committee, a South Dakota non-profit group dedicated to registering Indian voters and ensuring they turn out on Election Day.

“It's not about getting out Democrats or Republicans, it's about educating Native Americans on how important it is to vote,” said Charles F. Bunnell, the Mohegans' chief of staff for external and governmental affairs. full article

The article presents the efforts of those who adhere to the idea that participating in the U.S electoral process is the best hope to affect change in Indian Country.

However, not all native people believe this is the best course. In fact, many native activists, organizations, educators, and scholars believe the act of voting gives legitimacy to the state. We'll also be featuring those views in the months to come. If you would like to read one such perspective, please visit this website-taiaiake.com to read a guest column by Cliff Atleo, Jr.

Taiaiake.com also featured one of Taiaiake Alfred's own columns "Why play the White man's game?" about this issue but it's not listed in the article section. I will post an excerpt from it, along with the link to another website that has a copy of his column

"It seems so clear that participating in the white man's political system goes against the basic idea that we are nations. An Indian giving a vote to a political candidate in a Canadian election is the same thing as giving an "OK" and smiling high five to the whole system that's been created to control us and take away our rights. If one chooses to validate their rule over us in this way, it becomes hypocritical to claim distinct nationhood as "First Nations," treaty Indians or Indigenous peoples. One of the strongest arguments we have against the legality of the white man's Indian Act is that we have never agreed to be subjects of that authority. Our ancestors never signed treaties of surrender, yet by participating in the white man's politics, we are caving in and surrendering and in effect giving the Canadian government the consent it so desperately needs to justify the situation it has created. By casting a vote or taking part in Canadian elections, what Indians are really saying to Canada is "I hereby agree to be part of your system, and accept the authority of your Constitution and your laws over me." full article


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