Video project focuses on tribal voting initiative, tribal voices
by Tasiyagnunpa Livermont
A local non-partisan project’s 2-minute video is challenging tribal members to turn out to state, county and federal elections in higher numbers, claiming that sovereignty is not just participation in tribal politics, but that non-tribal governmental entities must hear more tribal voices.“We always talk about our sovereignty and our land. We talk about these things. This is the way we take it back. We make sure they know that we have an opinion, that we are involved and that we’re watching. We have to do that. We have to send that message,” said Julie Garreau, who started the project as the focus of her Bush Foundation Native Nations Rebuilder fellowship.
The video’s release this summer precedes public meetings in CRST communities, a public awareness campaign regarding voter turnout and activism at the county level to further early voting efforts for tribal communities.
Before the other work can being, more research must be done. “I think the next step is going to be interviewing people and doing a little research, finding out exactly what decision the state makes when the state makes a decision that impacts us specifically–native people living on reservations. What decisions, what laws impact us, and that’s what we need to know,” said Garreau.The video itself is meant to encourage tribal members to vote in elections that they otherwise might not. Garreau and her campaign manager, Michelle Fredericks DuBray, both say they saw poor voter turnout during Garreau’s unsuccessful bid for state senate, but perhaps more importantly for Garreau and DuBray, they learned why many of her fellow tribal members do not vote in non-tribal elections. “As Julie’s campaign manager, I learned that a large number of people didn’t vote in state and federal elections, only tribal; some not even tribal. It is a sad commentary on our community if its citizens feel so disenfranchised they don’t vote, they don’t see the point of voting. I found that very disheartening. I am hopeful our voter education efforts can help change the attitude of many eligible voters and that we will see an increase in voter turn-out in the upcoming election,” said DuBray, resident of Cheyenne River and enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation at Fort Berthold, ND.
The Lakota Voter Engagement Project started by Garreau, CRST tribal member and executive director of the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte, put the video together with the help of Chris ‘Mo’ Hollis, media director for the 7th Generation Fund for Indian Development based out of Arcata, California.
You can view the video online at http://youtu.be/VxAerjOA5IQ or visit the West River Eagle Facebook page.