For only the second time in the last 70 years, Arizona will more than likely turn Blue when all the votes are counted, but who do you think prompted that switch? Women? People of color?
Both, actually; it was Native Americans led by a woman who made history in Arizona. The Navajo Nation covers three counties in the state—Apache, Navajo and Coconino—and all three went solidly for Joe Biden; in fact, while 51%of the state voted Biden, 97% if the Navajo voted for Joe.
How does that happen? Especially given that there few available polling stations for Navajo voters, that many Native People have limited access to transportation.
Native American communities have long faced barriers in the voting process; they weren’t given voting rights in every state until 1962 and have had problems ever since. In the 2018 midterm elections, many tribal ID cards were deemed invalid because they don’t have an actual street address at which to receive voting information. There is limited access to voter registration offices, polling stations, transportation and, in the age of _____, excessive mail delays, that make voting nearly impossible for Native Americans.
But one Navajo voter, Allie Young, wasn’t going to let any of that stop her. She created the ‘Ride to the Poll’ movement, hoping to empower Native American youth to vote and reconnect them with their cultural heritage by taking a small group of Navajo voters by horseback to the polling station for early voting. Better still, they were met by an even larger crowd of Native American people who, after learning of Young’s movement, took to horseback to cast their ballots, too.
Young’s ‘Ride to the Polls’ movement spurred more than 67,000 eligible Navajo voters to get to the polls. Allie says she was inspired by her father, who “had a vision of us riding our horses to protect our people.” She took that sentiment and rode with it, realizing it was the perfect way to get the Navajo community excited about voting because it brought back a sense of community. The more she talked, however, the more people listened, and the bigger her tiny group grew before November 3.
‘Ride to the Polls’ left a mark on not only the Navajo, but it resonated with Native Americans across the country. Young has received countless messages from other members of tribal communities who were inspired by her, and who also voted last week, many for the first time. And like Allie Young and her group, these other groups also arrived at the polls on horseback; Young said that was a way to pay tribute to their ancestors, adding that horses are a spiritual and sacred animal in culture.
“It’s also a reminder of what we’re fighting for: to protect not only our culture but our sacred land and Mother Earth.”
And it worked; even though Native Americans have been disenfranchised, ignored, treated inhumanely, by this country and its government, for decades, Native Americans decided this was the time to vote, and take a stand, and make a difference.
And it worked.