Voting This Election Can be a Complicated Matter for Native Americans

Native American voters may be in the minority across the country. But, in Minneapolis, Minnesota which has one of the highest concentration of Native Americans in the country, their votes on local issues and candidates add up, and politicians are paying attention.

At a recent gathering in South Minneapolis, a neighborhood known for its left of center views, Native voters gathered at the Division of Indian Work to discuss issues, listen to candidates and of course, enjoy a meal complete with fry bread and chili.

This election Native voters will vote on two constitutional amendments. Organizers of this event are hoping they can sway them to vote no on both, but really their goal is increase voter turnout.

“Statistically, we know Indian people don’t vote very much. So if we want them to vote no on the marriage amendment, the first step is getting people out to vote,” explains event organizer Marissa Carr.

Native Americans have the highest rates of poverty and joblessness compared to the rest of the country. Those are the issues and issues relating to tribal sovereignty and rights that bring people out to the polls.

Susan Allen, who was elected as Minnesota’s first Native American congresswoman in a special election this year in district 62B, chatted with voters about issues.

“The Marriage Amendment…most people are familiar with that amendment. In our district there is strong opposition to it. But the voter id is another story. Many people aren’t sure what that’s about. When you first look at it, people’s response is, ‘Well, I have an ID why shouldn’t everyone else have an ID?’ It’s a little bit of talking to them about it and the hardship that it would cause,” explains Allen on the voter ID issue.

Suited in a Minnesota Vikings jersey, Adrian Morris talked with her friend while enjoying chili and reading over campaign literature.

“For one, gay marriage, I don’t think it’s government’s right to say who, what, when, whatever. There are gays, lesbians in our community and I feel that they’re human, they love each other. I don’t think it’s right that government would try to stop them from having a marriage,” said Morris.

That isn’t the only issue she’s concerned about. She’ll also be voting no on the voter ID issue as well. Morris thinks that Obama is the best candidate to serve Native Americans and the rest of those who are living in poverty or are experiencing joblessness.

For Native people, explains Marisa Carr, voting in general elections like this one can be a complicated matter since they also vote in tribal elections and belong to a sovereign nation like the Ojibwe in Red Lake or Mille Lacs in Minneosta.

“This is the government we’re living under. And I want it to be the best that it can be for everybody that’s in this country,” says Carr.

Allison Herrera

Allison Herrera, originally from San Luis Obispo, Calif.,  studied media and Spanish at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., where she earned her bachelor s. Since moving to the Twin Cities, she has been a news producer for KFAI Fresh Air Community Radio, communications coordinator for Twin Cities Public Television's arts series MN Original, and producer for the Association of Minnesota Public and Educational Radios Stations for the series MN90: Minnesota History in 90 Seconds.

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