Yes, there are Native American republicans. Navajo VP speaks on their behalf during Republican National Convention

Navajo Nation vice-president, Myron Lizer, gave the opening remarks on day two of Republican National Convention.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Following night two of the Republican National Convention, many across Coast Salish territory were vexed, truly vexed, when they witnessed vice-president of Navajo Nation, Myron Lizer, address a largely conservative audience and endorse President Donald Trump for the 2020 election.

“Many of our ancestral leaders sought to govern and lead a nation within a nation,” Lizer said. “They sought to lead their people into the promises of a better way of life for their children’s children. It is also where they have not been as successful as the rest of America. 

“Our first nation’s people – the host people of the land – we are still here. Our creator placed us here and he knew that for such a time as this we would have the opportunity for an appeal to heaven. You see our people have never been invited into the America Dream. We for years fought past battles with congressmen and senators that were part of a broken system that ignored us. That is until President Trump took office.

“President Trump delivered the largest funding package ever to Indian Country. The $8 billion dollars in CARES Act funding was a great start in alleviated the devastating effects that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected on our tribes because of health disparities that previous administration failed to improve,” he continued. “I’m excited to endorse President Trump’s reelection.”

During Lizer’s eye-opening, two-and-a-half minute speech he praised the President for a number of policies instituted in the last few months that benefit Native American communities. Among them are the $8 billion dollars in CARES Act funding, $273 million to improve public safety and support victims of crimes on Native lands, and, most recently, the creation of a task force to address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis. Dubbed ‘Operation Lady Justice’, this task force intends to dedicate more crucial monies and man power to the MMIW movement by establishing an interagency task force charged with developing an aggressive, government-wide strategy to address the crisis.

Surrounded by Native leaders, President Trump signs an executive order establishing ‘Operation Lady Justice’ to address MMIW crisis. (Official White House photo)

“Our Native American people experience violence at a higher rate than any other nationality in the country,” explained Lizer when President Trump signed the executive order creating ‘Operation Lady Justice’. “The lack of reporting and investigation of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples needs to be taken seriously. The executive order gives hope to our tribal nations that justice is being sought and that there is a path for healing of our families, victims, and survivors.”

Without a doubt, self-identifying liberal, progressive, or Democrat tribal citizens may very well disagree with Lizer’s political allegiance and endorsement of President Trump for re-election. They may even go as far to call the recent legislative policies aimed at benefitting Native communities nothing more than political hogwash and moves only intended to garner political support. Even if that’s true, shouldn’t the mere spotlight on tribal issues and voices be considered a win? Regardless of which political party wrote or passed a particular policy, shouldn’t every resource gained by Indian Country be viewed as a step forward? 

When legislative policies are deemed good or bad, right or wrong, favorable or unfavorable simply based on whether they were created by team blue (Democrats) or team red (Republicans) then it only succeeds in dismissing the actions of half the voting electorate. In doing so, the voices of Native conservatives go unheard by Native progressives and vice-versa.

In 1929, after becoming Vice President, Native Republican Charles Curtis receives a peace pipe from Chief Red Tomahawk. (Library of Congress photo)

Quick piece of history trivia: Did you know a Native American has served as the Vice President of the United States? If you’re in disbelief, don’t be. It’s a super cool part of history that is often neglected or forgotten altogether because Charles Curtis (Kaw), the 31st VP who served from 1929-1933 under President Herbert Hoover, was a Republican.

Currently, there are only four Native Americans members in Congress. Representatives Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk) and Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) both made history in 2018 when they won their seats and became the first Native women to reach the House of Representatives. They both are Democrats. They joined their fellow Native politicians Representative Tom Cole (Chickasaw) and Representative Markwayne Mullin (Cherokee), both Republicans, to bring the Native voice to each major political party. 

“If you look at our people nationally, there is no party who universally supports us,” explained O.J. Semans (Rosebud Sioux), executive director of the Native voter engagement organization Four Directions. “It really is dependent on region and the particulars of local state governments. I can guarantee you that you can have Democrats within your area and if the local Native interests are different from theirs, then you won’t have their support.

“I think we should support Native candidates running for both parties. There needs to be Native republicans and Native democrats in order to work together in advancing Native issues,” he added. “It’s never going to be about a particular party issue, it’s always going to be about our peoples’ issues. As Native Americans, let us not look at a party above our own issues, above our treaties and above our sovereignty.”

Today, Native voters represent an influential and unique population of voters in the United States. The Native vote influences outcomes of presidential and congressional elections, as well as state and local elections. While Native issues are complex and vary by region, tribe, and culture, most tribal citizens agree supporting tribal sovereignty and self-determination is the foundation to any successful Native platform, regardless of political affiliation.

$350 school readiness stipend available to Tulalip’s K-12 students

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

It’s barely been two weeks since the Tulalip Tribes announced the availability of COVID impact funding for its K-12 students, and nearly 800 applications have been submitted already. The $350 school readiness stipend is made available as part of the CARES Act, which was signed into law back in March, and is intended to provide critical relief for students as they prepare to start the new school year learning remotely.

“Our tribes are feeling significant strain,” said Senator Martha McSally. “This legislation provides immediate cash relief and strong assistance to tribal communities impacted by this so workers and families can pay their bills. I will continue to work with the Trump Administration to ensure this relief is administered quickly, efficiently and in a manner that works best for tribal communities.”

With all Washington State school districts either recently starting or set to start the 2020-2021 academic year, the uncertainty of resuming education is no more. It’s certain that the routine of daily education is back, but the details of that routine have changed immensely. As a result of COVID-19, Governor Inslee mandated all K-12 public and private schools remain closed to in-person learning and instead institute distance learning solutions. For the vast majority of Tulalip students this means going all digital, all the time from the comforts of home.

For students and their families lacking in the necessary resources to provide an effective learning environment for distance learning, the unexpected opportunity to receive $350 per Tulalip student can be a significant morale boost. 

“Nobody was expecting this money. We’re fortunate the tribe applied for relief funds from a grant to help out our students and it was accepted,” explained Lisa Fryberg, positive youth development advocate. “These funds are intended to go towards school supplies and digital resources to make our children’s learning experience better.”

“Hopefully, all our kids will see this money be used to facilitate a functioning learning environment at their home,” added fellow youth advocate Deyamonta Diaz. “What we hope not to see is this money being viewed as supplemental income and used to purchase items that really don’t prioritize our kids’ education.” 

To create a highly effective learning environment at home, here are some basic essentials local school districts suggest purchasing: a desk or mini table dedicated for an individual student, a reliable internet or WiFi connection to support multiple devices, a comfortable desk chair, personal headphones, a printer with a decent supply of paper and ink, and a white board to be used as a student planner to manage class schedule, homework assignments, and any broader academic goals. Two items left off this essential list are a cheap laptop and webcam because Marysville School District and local private schools issued their students Chomebooks with built-in webcam and internet access.

“As a mother of two students, one in 5th grade and the other in 10th grade, I plan on using their stipends to make sure they each have their own work stations,” said Lisa. “The $350 can purchase a lot if used sensibly. There’s no need to buy everything brand new, at full retail price. I’ve been searching Facebook Marketplace and other reselling apps to find work station essentials.”

With so many applications turned in thus far, and many hundreds more expected in the coming weeks, Youth Services staff request patience and understanding that it takes about two weeks from application processing to stipend mail out. Each check is made out to the individual student and no receipts are required to be submitted after the fact. The deadline to submit a stipend application is October 31.

“I always felt like we took our public school system for granted. Like, there are those who are consistently critical of what public school doesn’t offer or what they lack, but now we get to experience what it’s like not to have this resource and already a lot of people miss what they took for granted, ” reflected Deyamonta, who serves Totem Middle School as a student advocate. “We need the school districts as much as they need us. At least for the next several months, we’ll see how our families and students are able to adapt to a more independent learning environment.”

With many schools across the country closed and operating under remote learning or a hybrid model to prevent the spread of COVID-19, students and their families alike are bracing themselves for a fall semester unlike any other. This makes for quite the back-to-school shopping shakeup. Fortunately, the school readiness stipend can help curb costs and ease the transition to an all-digital, distance learning landscape.

The school readiness stipend application can be found at:

Additional applications can be picked up at the Tulalip Teen Center front desk.

Tulalip Tribal Court introduces Tulalip Community Give Back program

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

With the late August weather reaching the mid-70’s on a Friday afternoon, cars zoomed across the recently widened bridge that spans across Quil Ceda Creek, windows down and music blaring. On the side of the bridge, nearest to 27th street, a group of volunteers were hard at work. With yellow vests and extendable trash grabbers, the crew spent four hours cleaning an area that is often frequented by the homeless and addicted populace. Once their blue bucket was filled to the top with rubbish, they transferred the trash to a large dumpster and began working on a new area. 

The members of the working crew are the very first participants of a new program called Tulalip Community Give Back, organized by the Tulalip Probation Office. And despite the physical work and warm weather, the participants wore smiles and shared stories and jokes while they worked.

“We’re picking up around the bridge on both sides, just cleaning up and picking up all the garbage and debris,” said volunteer, Yessenia Vega-Simpson. “This is the first day of the program and so far it’s a pretty cool program. There’s two groups, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, so you can pick and choose your time. I’m doing the full eight hours so I can hurry up and get my community service done. “

Like many new or redesigned programs, Tulalip Give Back was created in response to the novel coronavirus disease when clients of the Tulalip Justice Center could not fulfill their community service hours. 

“Our only structure pre-COVID was community service, essays, court observation, and unfortunately warrants or jail time,” said Tulalip Probation Officer, Angel Sotomayor. “Post-COVID (outbreak), of course we don’t want to put anyone behind bars if we can prevent it, but community service work is limited within the communities we used to send them to. So we wanted to try something different, a method of community service that is Tulalip specific and includes community involvement and interaction with other departments within the Tribe.”

Previously, Justice Center clients would normally volunteer their time at community service programs located in nearby cities such as Marysville and Everett. However, once the Stay Home, Stay Safe mandate went into effect, the need for community service workers decreased significantly to the point that Tulalip members were falling out of compliance due to limited work available. 

Angel stated, “We are working with those clients who need that extra structure, who have been out of compliance, who volunteer to opt-in and give back to the community in this aspect instead of warrants, jail time, or writing an essay. The Tulalip Community Give Back program will be two days a week, but at the start of it we’re only going to do it one day a week for eight hours. There are two crews, 7:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. and a 12:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. on Fridays. This way, those who have children obligations during the first part of the day, can come to the second session or vice versa.”

  A common theme throughout the design of the Give Back program is rebuilding and strengthening that connection between the clients and the community. Angel and the Justice Center hope that by collaborating with other departments, their clients will become more familiarized with the people in a professional manner and acquire new skills that they could add to their resumes when job hunting. Angel hopes that as word about the Give Back program spreads, more departments will reach out when in need of any general assistance that can be entrusted to their clients. 

Out the gate, the program is receiving a huge boost from the Tulalip Public Works department that assigned a 12-passenger van to the program to transport the clients to each worksite every week. Public Works is also providing the Probation Office with work locations as well as any necessary tools or services required to get the job done. 

“We teamed up with Sam Davis and his staff and they agreed to provide us with all the tools we need – safety vests, glasses, first aid and training so they know how to properly deal with broken glass, and hazardous things they might find when cleaning up,” said Angel. “Hopefully down the road, as the program continues to develop, they’ll be able to add these tasks as an acquired skill; leaf blowing, power washing, mowing lawns, scanning documents or shredding documents. That’s our long term goal, to be able to give them the tools to build themselves up, to be a member of the community and not feel that they are different than anyone else. Yes, they are still on probation, but they are still a member of this community.”

It seems that with each day that passes, the program continues to grow. Already, the Tulalip Give Back program is slated to clean up the housing developments built on the reservation including Mission Highlands, Battle Creek, and Silver Village. 

“I believe this is very important work that is being done,” Sam Davis, Public Works Director of Operations stated. “Giving these community members the opportunity to give back in a good way [is] awesome to see. Also the impact these cleanups have in terms of community health, public safety, and environmentally are huge.” 

On the first day of the program, the morning of August 28, the Tulalip Tribal Court’s Chief Judge, Michelle Demmert, offered some inspiring words to the morning crew after they received their required COVID screenings. She applauded them for volunteering their time, while also expressing a desire to incorporate more Tulalip culture into the program. And with the possibility of more funding in the near future, the Give Back program is doing some tentative planning with ideas of weaving classes and other traditional teachings in mind. 

Angel also stated that the program is in talks with the Tulalip Fish Hatchery to put their volunteers to work and learn more about the salmon, its life cycle and significance to the Salish people. By adding a cultural aspect to the program, the clients get the chance to revisit the traditions and teaching of their people in addition to picking up trash and caring for the land. 

“We think that this is going to help build that relationship with the community, where they can interact and gain skills to give back to Tulalip, because most of our clients are Tulalip tribal members,” expressed Angel. “This gives them the opportunity to show that they’re volunteering to do this, they want to be a part of this community, they still want to get through these conditions, pay back those fines, stay out of jail and hopefully find their path.”

Staying true to the theme of strengthening relationships, Angel, and volunteers from the Justice Department, plan on being on site during each community service gathering, lending a hand as well as any guidance needed throughout the day. By rolling up their sleeves and working side-by-side, the court hopes to build trust, understanding, and meaningful, long-lasting relationships with their clients.

Nine participants showed up in total for the first day of the Tulalip Community Give Back program, many of whom spent the entire eight hours in the field, filling up an extra-large dumpster with garbage that was recovered from both sides of the Quil Ceda Creek bridge. In addition to all the trash collected, the participants flagged over 50 used needles that were scattered about, which Angel safely handled and disposed of. 

“We no longer have to rely on Marysville or surrounding communities, we can focus on what Tulalip needs,” Angel said. “It was motivating watching these clients work so hard today. It has given me the drive to continue to do what I am doing. Times have been difficult for everyone during this pandemic, across the entire Tribe we have had to develop new methods to better assist those which we serve. I commend everyone for their efforts during these trying times. Today really reminded me of how important it is to develop alternate methods of engagement with our clients. If anyone has a moment stop by and take a look at the area beside the bridge, adjacent to the QCC Casino, you will notice it looks night and day different. These clients did an outstanding job. I am excited to continue to work towards the growth and further development of this program.”

Eight hours closer to completing her community service hours, Yessenia reflected, “I thought it was just community service, but today I learned that this time could also be used as an opportunity to learn new skills to help people get a job. We’re not just picking up garbage; we’re going to be all over, at the fisheries, helping with housing, shredding papers somewhere. It feels pretty good giving back and helping clean up and take care of our rez.”

For more information, please contact the Tulalip Tribal Court Probation Office at (360) 716-4773.

Edward Lee Hamilton

NOVEMBER 12, 1968 – AUGUST 27, 2020

“Bo” Edward Lee Hamilton was born to Roxie Johnson Hamilton Brown and the late Eddie Hamilton in Joliet, Illinois on November 12th, 1968 and grew up in Warren Hill, Mississippi. Edward joined the Navy in 1986 and married Andrea Williams in 1993. To this union was born two sons: Neil Andrew Hamilton and Donovan Riley Hamilton. He served nine years of active duty for the Navy and then uprooted to Washington to be with his family. Edward worked at the Sea-Tac Federal Detention Center for 23 years. Throughout these years of service he made many lifelong friendships. He was truly an amazing friend, son, brother, husband, father and grandfather and cherished everybody and every memorable moment made. He had a love for fishing and was a die hard Dallas Cowboys fan who looked forward to talking smack come the annual football season. Edward lost his battle with cancer and left to be with the lord on August 27th, 2020. He is proceeded in death by his oldest brother, Peter Darrick Hamilton, his father, Eddie Howard Hamilton and four grandparents. He is survived by his mother, Roxie Johnson Hamilton Brown (Antwon), former wife Andrea Williams, two sons, Neil and Donovan Hamilton (and their siblings), grandchildren, Nevaeh Rose and Adriannah Nicole Hamilton, special baby Lunani (Marliah) four brothers, Joseph (Erica) Hamilton, Michael D. Hamilton, William “Simon” (Benita) Hamilton, and Dennis Raymond (Leah) Hamilton and many relatives distant and near.

New Quil Ceda Creek Casino to spotlight exciting new casual dining concepts and environmental focus with “green kitchen”

The new Quil Ceda Creek Casino is scheduled to open early next year

TULALIP, WA – A major commitment to food excellence and state-of-the-industry “green kitchen” operations are among the attractions coming to the new Quil Ceda Creek Casino, slated to open in early 2021.  The centerpieces for the enhanced culinary focus include “The Kitchen,” offering guests casual dining with an array of made-to-order menu choices and “The Landing,” an exciting a la carte dining experience.  Menu items will spotlight fresh, local ingredients from Northwest suppliers and prepared with the latest “green cooking” techniques.

“The unveiling of ‘The Kitchen,’ ‘The Landing’ and other new food and beverage venues will support our goal of providing guests with a total gaming, dining and entertainment experience,” said Belinda Hegnes, Interim Executive VP of Quil Ceda Creek Casino. “Healthier, safer and environmentally conscious technology literally transforms the way recipes are developed and prepared. And by embracing the ‘green kitchen’ concept, we are aligning our operations with the Tulalip Tribes’ commitment to the environment.”

More than doubling the size of the current casino located across the street,  the impressive new “Q” will span over 120,000 square feet and will include 1,500 gaming machines (an increase of 500 machines), additional table games, an expanded entertainment lounge and a multi-story parking garage. The new Quil Ceda Creek Casino is located on 15 acres of Tulalip Tribal land directly off I-5 at exit 199.

In addition to the greatly enhanced restaurant operations, guests will have multiple choices at three bars for craft cocktails, regional beers, Northwest wines and appetizers.

Far from an afterthought, planning for the new dining concepts and kitchen operations have been underway for more than two years. 

“The Kitchen” spotlights a new food hall dining experience where guests may visit one or multiple stations and choose from a variety of made-to-order menu items. Selections are recorded on a single card as they go, and guests pay one bill for all orders when they are finished, as opposed to “food court” experiences at most other casinos where patrons pay at each and every station or restaurant they visit.

Guests at ‘The Kitchen’ can expect a tasty lineup of choices including freshly-prepared pizza and pasta, roasted prime rib, hand carved meats for sandwiches, tossed salads made on the spot, breakfast served 24/7, plus a few surprises: fresh gelatos, “chocolate lasagna” and a vertical cone of chocolate for serving up hand-shaved additions to desserts!

There’s good reason for the growing excitement behind the food hall concept.

“With all the preparation activity taking place in front of guests, it’s a stimulating scene that adds to the interest and anticipation of the meal,” said Hegnes. “It’s a feast for the senses.”

To prepare food efficiently in a high-output kitchen – without sacrificing flavor and character – the new Q culinary team introduces windspeed ovens and other innovations to the food preparation.  It’s a no-fry, greaseless kitchen with no vents, and the integration of new kitchen technologies will greatly reduce waste output and energy consumption. Even to-go containers will have a short “life” of 90 days and will be compostable. 

“From the front door to the back door and beyond, the restaurants at the new Quil Ceda Creek Casino will be the ‘greenest’ in the Northwest when they open. It’s a tribute to forward-thinking by the Tulalip Tribes,” said Hegnes.  

The current Quil Ceda Creek Casino facility will remain fully operational until the new casino opens to the public in early 2021. More information on the new Quil Ceda Creek Casino and a livestream look at construction can be found at


Farm-to-table focus, locally sourced ingredients showcased in casual dining menus at the new Quil Ceda Creek Casino 

The new Quil Ceda Creek Casino will showcase a variety of casual dining options, but there will nothing casual behind the thoughtful sourcing of premium ingredients on the menus when it opens in early 2021.

Coupled with the casino’s advanced “green kitchen” preparation techniques, the focus on local and regional products promises guests a memorable dining experience.

“We are fortunate to live in a region where the unrivaled bounty of our farms, ranches and fisheries is readily available,” said Belinda Hegnes, Interim Executive VP of Quil Ceda Creek Casino.  “From fresh-tossed salads and hand-carved prime rib to shellfish harvested nearby, our ingredients will represent the best our region has to offer.”

Hegnes said local ingredients will be featured in multiple food stations in the casino’s innovative “The Kitchen,” serving made-to-order dishes, as well as a la carte dining at “The Landing” and appetizers in three bars featuring regional beers, Northwest wines and craft cocktails.

The new casino’s culinary team has been developing vendor relationships to source a variety of products, including:

  • Locally sourced fresh Puget Sound clams, mussels and oysters 
  • Fresh berries from Skagit Valley growers – showcased on menus as availability allows
  • Alaskan wild-caught sockeye salmon and line-caught cod 
  • Chicken from nearby Draper Valley Farms, a Northwest Tradition since 1935
  • Certified Angus beef from Oregon
  • Sun-kissed Walla Walla Sweet Onions 
  • “Fresh, never frozen” ground chuck and hand-carved prime rib
  • From Seattle’s Pike Place Market, offerings from Uli’s Famous Sausages
  • Tasty hamburgers featuring flavorful American Wagyu beef patties
  • Chocolate-lovers should be prepared to be “wowed” by unusual Chocolate Shawarmas – pillars of solid chocolate goodness from chocolatier Sagra Inc. in Tacoma. Hand-shaved over scrumptious desserts or coffees, selections will include rich milk chocolate with a white chocolate swirl and dark chocolate marbled with strawberry white chocolate.  

“Our commitment to ‘staying local’ not only enhances the dining experience for our guests, it stimulates the local economy by putting money back into the hands of growers, farmers and artisans,” said Hegnes.

Matriarchs shine at DNC’s Native American Caucus

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Last week’s Democratic National Convention included two full days dedicated to advancing the nation-to-nation relationships with tribal governments, with focused discussion on crucial topics in regards to upholding federal trust responsibilities inherent to Native citizens. A broad range of policy areas, including but not limited to health, safety, economic development, education, voting importance, and strengthening tribal sovereignty were all spotlighted.

Known as the DNC Native American Caucus, tribal members from across the nation were invited to attend this one-of-a-kind, virtual platform that was free to attend. Those who opted to tune in had countless opportunities to be inspired for a better tomorrow via the many progressive-minded messages filled with hope and promise by a new crop of political leaders led by Native matriarchs.

“Opening our two day Native American Caucus was three matriarchs who are among the highest elected officials in the United States,” shared DNC Native American Political Director, Theresa Sheldon (Tulalip). “It is so inspiring and breathtaking when we acknowledge the historic moment we are in. As Native Americans, we are refusing to not be seen. Instead, we are seeing more and more Native people hearing the call and intending to fulfill the need that is representation.”

Congresswoman Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo).

Congresswoman Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), Congresswoman Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk), and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan (White Earth Band of Ojibwe), each took to the digital podium and rallied viewers to make their voices heard by voting in November’s presidential election for democratic candidate and former Vice-President, Joe Biden. 

“I’m proud that we have the most progressive and forward leading platform for Indian Country ever, especially where the environment is concerned,” explained Representative Haaland, Congressional Native American Caucus co-chair. “Joe Biden has a very strong commitment to fighting climate change, moving our country to renewable energy, and just making sure our voices are heard.

“Tribal leaders must have a say in where we are moving forward, and that’s why I am doing everything I can to get Joe Biden elected. Unlike the present administration, he’d absolutely never appoint a coal lobbyist or gas and oil lobbyist to any of these positions where we know we need someone who cares deeply about our land and Indian Country.”

Haaland and Davids, of New Mexico and Kansas respectively, are the first-ever Native women to serve in Congress, while Flanagan, of Minnesota, is the highest-ranking Native woman elected to executive office in U.S. history. Collectively, these three spectacular leaders have made history as Native women elected to political office. Together they serve their local Native communities on the national stage.

Congresswoman Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk).

According to Indian Country Today’s database, the number of Native candidates has been rising for several years, with a boost in Native female candidates over Native men.

“It’s such a powerful thing having us in the House of Representatives,” said Representative Davids. “It’s not just that we are in the room, which just by our presence there changes the conversation, but because of our professional backgrounds in Indian law, our experience within Native communities and our reservations, we have a unique ability to educate our colleagues and influence Congressional decision making.

“That’s why I’m so excited to see the record-breaking number of Native folks running for office across the country. We are in an amazing age where Native people are stepping up to participate in local, state or federal legislatures,” continued Davids. “The other thing we have to do is elect folks who are going to be strong partners for our Native communities; candidates and elected officials who will listen to the Native community and actually engage with us. We’ve got that with Joe Biden, which is why so many of us are doing everything we can to get him elected to the White House.”

Within Native communities, we know accurate representation and being given a space to voice our concerns is of the utmost importance. After surviving cultural genocide, westward colonization, and brutal assimilation policies, it took centuries for Native Amerians to finally gain U.S. citizenship in 1924. Even then, the right to vote by tribal citizens wasn’t universally granted until 1962.

Malicious roadblocks remain to this day to suppress the Native vote. Restrictive voting laws throughout the United States often carry a discriminatory effect, either by intent or consequence, for our communities. Some of the major challenges to the ballot box faced by tribal nations include: failure to provide sufficient voting places, lack of proper election resource allocation, restrictive voting laws and removal of federal protections.

Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan (White Earth Band of Ojibwe).

These hurdles have real effects as statistics from the National Congress of American Indians show that almost two out of five eligible Native citizens are not registered to vote. Compounding the matter is the turnout rate of Native registered voters is between 5 to 14 percentage points lower than turnout rates of other racial and ethnic groups.

Transforming attitudes formed by generations of cultural and political exclusion is something that will be a long evolving process and must be addressed by tribes, state and federal officials. Nonetheless, it is important to realize the most powerful form of transformation comes from within. 

“Knowing that I work in an institution that was not created by us or for us, but in many ways was created to eliminate us, you can feel the difference that results from having Native people work within these systems,” explained Lt. Governor Flanagan. “It results in true government-to-government relationships, tribal consultation [being more frequent], and passage of policy to address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

“I’m hopeful for the work that we’ve been able to accomplish in partnership with the tribes over the last year and a half,” she added. “But we know we have tremendous amounts of work to do and having a partner in the White House would make a big difference. We have an opportunity to ensure we elect someone who sees us, who hears us, and who values us in Joe Biden. Our voices will be heard and we will make an impact in the weeks leading up to the election.”

The power of true cultural representation and civic engagement by Native citizens of all ages was on full display during the DNC’s two-day Native American Caucus. Topics discussed by Native advocates, activists, and political leaders all echoed the same sentiment, Indian Country will be silenced no longer. The next generation of leaders are taking up the mantle and in full pursuit of fulfilling the dreams of their ancestors.

“Representatives Haaland and Davids, with Lt. Governor Flanagan, all shared the need for more Native Americans to run for public office, while also detailing the importance of getting our youth, 18-26 years old, to be engaged and cast their vote,” reflected Theresa Sheldon. “Overall, the most effective Get-Out-The-Native-Vote message is one that speaks to your local Tribe. We know the U.S. President impacts Tribes and our citizens, but we must make sure our tribal voters understand their vote is their voice. Come Election Day, we need our people to scream loudly that enough is enough!”