Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
A report released on Monday by Dēmos with an ambitious title, "Ensuring Access to the Ballot for American Indians & Alaska Natives: New Solutions to Strengthen American Democracy" reveal two points that Native people have known for a long time.
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The report reveals that American Indians and Alaska Natives mistrust government. The report also reveals that American Indians and Alaska Natives vote at lower rates than any other racial and ethnic group in the United States.
As an American Indian, I have known it all along. Years ago, an Indian elder told me:
“You cannot trust either political party. Republicans lie to us; Democrats lie to us.”
It is easy to see why American Indians and Alaska Natives have so much apathy when it comes to voting. It is equally easy to understand the mistrust by American Indians and Alaska Natives of the federal government and its politicians in both parties who are the key policy decision makers within the federal government.
The report cites "manipulation, discrimination and forcible exclusion from the voting process" as reasons why American Indians and Alaska Natives vote at lower rates and have contributed to mistrust of the American democratic system by American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Trust and cooperation seem to go hand in hand. Just ask anyone who has ever been married. When people are told one thing and the opposite is true, mistrust follows soon behind. Mistrust leads to apathy.
The "Ensuring Access to the Ballot for American Indians & Alaska Natives: New Solutions to Strengthen American Democracy" report attempts to correct the apathy when it comes to voting by Native people.
"The time is now for the federal government to send a strong and simple message to the Native community: we recognize that government and civic participation in America began with American Indians and therefore you have the right to have your voice heard at every level of government with respect to the issues that confront your families, tribes, and the country,"
writes Tova Wang, the author of the report.
The report puts the onus on the back of the federal government. The report recommends that the Indian Health Services should become voting registration agencies so that the 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives can register to vote more easily while they are at health facilities. The report cites a provision of the National Voter Registration Act that would allow IHS facilities to serve in such roles.
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posted June 21, 2012 11:40 am edt