Exercising Your Right to Vote is Key to Advancing Indian Country

The right to vote is the most fundamental right and duty we have as American citizens and is the truest foundation of our democratic government. As Tribal citizens, it is our solemn responsibility to exercise our voice – our vote – to honor our fallen warriors who defended our lands so that Indian Country could have a future in the United States.

For Tribal citizens, exercising our voting rights not only serves to advance our future policy goals, it also serves as an act of honoring those who came before us, making sacrifices to protect Tribal sovereignty and making it possible for us to protect our way of life for future generations.

It is crucial that we elect federal policy makers who understand Indian Country, respect the status of Indian Tribes as separate sovereign governments under the United States Constitution, and acknowledge and commit to upholding the federal government’s solemn treaty and trust obligations to Indian Tribes.

This is why the National Indian Gaming Association has mounted the “My Vote WILL Count” campaign to do our part in promoting the importance going to the polls and to ensure that all Native Americans heed the call TO VOTE.

Watch a Video with Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. on the “My Vote WILL Count” Campaign

As a Tribal advocate, it is our obligation to vet and educate candidates for federal, state, local, and Tribal offices. It is our responsibility to make sure candidates understand Indian Country, Tribal sovereignty, and the federal governments’ legal and moral obligations to Tribal governments and Tribal citizens.

On November 3, 2020, we will once again have the opportunity to elect federal policy leaders, in Congress and the White House, who will decide on vital issues impacting Native people.

This election, like all elections, will have wide-ranging impacts and consequences on our efforts to advance the economic well-being of Native communities nationwide.
Throughout the 1800s, Congress enacted policies that eliminated Indian homelands and sought to erase our very way of life. The abhorrent 1900’s policy of assimilation forced our Native children into government-run boarding schools where they were forbidden from speaking their language or practicing their religion. The United States approved and implemented these policies all while Native Americans had no voice in the debate and no right to vote.

In spite of these attacks on Tribal sovereignty, and Native culture and religion, our ancestors persevered. Thanks to their tireless advocacy, Indian Country successfully steered federal Indian policy to one that now respects and fosters Indian self-determination. This is highlighted by recent Supreme Court decisions that have upheld the continuing strength and bond of our Treaties with the United States.
Native people have consistently shown that our votes hold the power to make a difference. It is our responsibility to educate Native communities nationwide about the importance of their vote and to believe “My vote will count.”

Given the partisanship of our politics, it is a fact that the Native American electorate, anywhere from 5% up 20% of a State’s population, could end up being pivotal in major swing states.

As a nonpartisan organization, we continue to encourage the importance of your vote. Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, we urge to educate, develop policy proposals with, and elect candidates who will stand for the best interests of Indian Country and respect our Tribal sovereignty.

Our power at the polls will determine whose voices will ring in the halls of Congress, at the White House, in Local, City, County, and State governments. Together, let’s pledge to ignite the flame of our power by registering and voting in 2020. TOGETHER, we can and WILL make a difference. Please Vote this November 3rd, and let’s make this one of the highest Indian Country turnouts in election history.

Ernie Stevens, Jr. 15 Articles
Ernie Stevens, Jr. is the Chairman and national spokesperson for the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) NIGA