Suppressing the Native vote and erasing cultures alive and well in ND, but Natives fight back

IMG_9506.JPGDaily Kos Director of Community Neeta Lind stands with Dale Ramsey and Duane Red Water, volunteer canvassers of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, which straddles the border of North Dakota and South Dakota.

Less than a month before the midterm elections, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the Native American Rights Fund’s (NARF) emergency application to stop North Dakota from implementing a discriminatory law requiring that a physical address be listed on each voter’s ID. In the primary election, Natives were able to use their tribal IDs, most of which use a post office box as an address.

Many reservations across the United States are very rural, meaning homes are far apart on long gravel or dirt roads off the main drags. The post office won’t deliver to many of these residences, so a significant number of Natives must rely on P.O. boxes. The new law is a deliberate attempt by North Dakota Republicans to suppress the Native vote, which gave Heidi Heitkamp the narrow margin for her victorious Senate race in 2012.

As soon as the Court announced its Oct. 9 decision not to review the Eighth Circuit Court’s discriminatory ruling on the IDs, activists in Indian Country and its allies across the nation swung into action. For our part, Daily Kos senior campaign director Monique Teal (aka Teal Bomb) and activism development manager Amanda McKay engaged our massive community of readers to rise to action. In partnership with North Dakota Native Votes and Four Directions, the Daily Kos community raised more than $500,000 so these two organizations can help Natives get new IDs, drive them to the polls, and promote community rallies to raise awareness of this obvious attempt to erase the Native voice by suppressing the vote.

While dealing with the acute problem caused by a lack of the right kind of ID for this year’s election, some of the funds raised will be going into get-out-the-vote infrastructure on the reservations to resolve some of the chronic problems for the long term.

We decided to fly a small team consisting of Monique, Trending News manager Jen Hayden, and me to North Dakota. As an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, I’m particularly invested in Native rights, and I greatly appreciate that my colleagues care about Indian Country.


We landed in Bismarck Thursday and set out the next day for the Standing Rock Reservation 66 miles south. We arrived at the tiny tribal capital of Fort Yates to meet our contact from Four Directions, Matt Samp. Matt told us to stop at the Family Dollar Store on the main road where we would follow his car to Four Directions’ headquarters, since it doesn’t have a physical address that our GPS could find. There we found a group of Natives organized and ready to go out and canvass.

Read this Twitter thread from Maggie Astor at The New York Times about her similar experience navigating North Dakota’s reservations.

The videos below were captured by Jen.

Here is an interview with Phyllis Young, a former Standing Rock Tribal councilwoman and currently one of the leaders at the Fort Yates hub of Four Directions. She’s been a Native activist all her life.

It was energizing to watch this small team in action. Canvassers reported back throughout the day when they returned to HQ for a break. For example, “We have an appointment at 1 PM to drive five people to vote!”

Here is Four Directions Team Five’s report after their long day canvassing. You can see they’re tired but determined. On the left is Dale Ramsey (Dakota-Lakota Sioux) from Cannonball, North Dakota, and on the right is Duane Red Water (Hunkpapa Dakota) from Standing Rock.

We ended our day by conducting an interview with Nicole Montclair Donaghy, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. She’s our contact at North Dakota Native Vote and is also affiliated with Western Native Voice. She gave a great overview of the history of the Native vote and makes note of the fact that most American Indians did not obtain U.S. citizenship until 1924.

Since Natives obtained the right to vote in a country where our nations had lived their entire lives, our votes have been suppressed on EVERY reservation across the country via the typical tactics of fewer polling places and misinformation campaigns designed to create confusion about dates and places to vote.

It was very rewarding to witness the strength of these North Dakota Natives who refuse to be erased by the government. Here is Margaret Landin with Native Vote ND, who was at a get-out-the-vote powwow at the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck:


Saturday evening we attended an event headlined by Mark Ruffalo, Dave Matthews, and Native celebrities Prairie Rose Seminole, Tonia Jo Hall aka Auntie Beachress, the drumming group Lakota Thunder, Scottie Clifford and Spirits Cry, and Prolific the Rapper. Sponsored by Western Native Vote ND, Common Defense, Native Voice Network, We Stand United Campaign, Dave Matthews Band and Mark Ruffalo.

This is my video of Prairie Rose Seminole, who is also with North Dakota Native Vote, and Mark Ruffalo promoting the event on social media. We carpooled from Bismarck back to Standing Rock with them. Ruffalo was so warm and enthusiastic. He loves Daily Kos. I thanked him for retweeting our request to donate and he was surprised and pleased at the amount that was raised. His Twitter feed has a great collection of his journeys to four reservations in North Dakota.

Here is one video from that evening showing our Native presence:

30679887727_6521ff331b_k.jpgDave Matthews 44896424414_ffbdfa52f5_k.jpgPrairie Rose Seminole and Mark Ruffalo being interviewed before the concert. As a funny aside, Auntie Beachress nicknamed Mark The Great White Ruffalo.

The Daily Kos Community has voted with their donations to show Indigenous people in North Dakota that they are not alone. We want to help resolve a lot of the ambivalence Natives have toward voting in county, state, and federal elections. Many thanks to all who support our efforts with donations, recommends, and shares. You’re making things happen in North Dakota.


Update: Saturday, Nov 24, 2018 · 5:12:55 AM +00:00 · Neeta Lind

Ha! Reservation voter turnout was up this cycle!

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