Article originally published on ndncollective.org
Last week, Representatives Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland joined NDN Collective and NativesOutdoors for Sko Vote Den Virtual Intertribal, an event aiming to engage Native voters ahead of election day. The elected officials joined Indigenous organizers, artists, and entertainers to discuss voting challenges, and to educate people about the complexities and importance of voting in Indian Country. You can watch the full, recorded livestream below.
As Indigenous-led organizations we know that voting is a complex issue for Native people and communities. Therefore, we wanted to embrace and talk about the complexities, while inspiring and educating our people about the importance of voting in this historic election.
A play on the intertribal social dance powwows where Native people and powwow goers visit casually while enjoying culture and building relationships, the Sko Vote Den Virtual Intertribal was designed to build political awareness and joy around getting out the vote in Indian Country.
During the Sko Vote Den Virtual Intertribal, with the help from Emcee’s and moderators, we framed up conversations from an Indigenous lens, sharing political analysis about this year’s election, and also providing helpful resources on how and when to vote.
“I recently learned that 11,000 new Native voters were recently registered across the country — this could not have been done without local work on the ground,” said Representative Deb Haaland. “I’m an organizer — for nearly two decades, I registered voters, knocked on doors, and made phone calls in Indian country all across New Mexico. It’s not easy work, but my experiences showed me that Indian country is the strongest when we work together.”
We learned from organizers about the barriers that exist in Indian countries when it comes to voting and how we overcome voter suppression by working together and building unity and strong grassroots groups and coalitions.
“Voting helps impact who is at the decision making table ,” said Representative Sharice Davids. “My job now, as an elected, is to listen to people. For too long, we didn’t have people in office who were listening to folks. Native people don’t need someone else to be our voice — we need people who are in decision making positions to be listening.”
What the SKO-VOTE-DEN Virtual Intertribal signaled was that Native People from the U.S./Mexico border to the Arctic, are ready and more than prepared to work with and build with elected officials to foster justice and equity in our communities, towns, states, and country and we are determined to put decision makers into office who will listen and be accountable to our people and who will honor tribal sovereignty . What this event also signaled is that while we work diligently to get out the vote in Indian Country, we are also committed to other forms of building Indigenous power, like grassroots organizing, direct action, and resourcing Indigenous frontlines communities and movements. Watch a 10-min highlight video of the event below.
Here is a complete line-up of panels, entertainment and guests who appeared on the SKO-VOTE-DEN Virtual Intertribal:
In order of Appearance:
Host Drum: Mile High Singers, Denver, CO
Emcees: Tonia Jo Hall and Tatanka Means
Keynote Speaker: Rep. Deb Haaland
Keynote Speaker Convo: Nick Tilsen, NDN Collective President and CEO and Rep. Sharice Davids
Panel 1, Building Collective Power: Sarah Manning, Amber Starks, Layel Camargo, Nicole Yanes
Entertainment: Raye Zaragoza, Singer
Keynote: Faith Spotted Eagle, Braveheart Society
Panel 2, Empowering the Youth Vote: Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Joey Montoya, Quannah Chasinghorse-Potts, Jade Begay
Entertainment: Holiday Simmons, Spoken Word Artist
Keynote: Natalie Landreth, Native American Rights Fund
Panel 3, Climate Justice: Shandiin Cedar, Bernadette Demientieff, Niria Alicia, Wahleah Johns
Entertainment: Mic Jordan, Musician and Hip Hop Artist