Encouraging Voices<br />Rally Gets Students Pumped Up About Election
Monday may have been Columbus Day, but at the Institute of American Indian Arts it was Indigenous Peoples Day, an opportunity to reinterpret the holiday with a student voters rally.
This is a day to remember our past, the struggles and wars, and the battles and the victories we have won ... to protect our people and our land, said Wizi Garriott, a Lakota who serves as First Americans director for the national Barack Obama campaign.
Voting is a way to continue that fight, Garriott told the group of about 150 students gathered in the schools outdoor circular plaza. He urged the students to vote early and then to sign up to help in the election process.
The rally was planned as a nonpartisan event, partly to get out the vote, but no one from the McCain campaign answered an invitation to attend, said Evelina Lucero, of Isleta Pueblo and Ohkay Owingeh. Lucero is on the creative writing department faculty and helped organize the event.
Well give them the opportunity to speak at a public gathering anytime they want, Lucero said about McCain representatives.
The other co-chair of the event, Marita Hinds of Tesuque Pueblo, the schools major gifts and alumni outreach officer, said a number of people at the school had been making a major effort to register voters. Five of us did a huge voter registration here for the last month, Hinds said.
And we went out to the pueblos and did door-to-door canvassing to register people there, she said.
Hinds said Native Americans are concerned about the same issues as anyone else. Theyre the same issues everyone would like to see addressed, she said. The economy, health care, education.
When IAIA President Robert Martin, Cherokee, spoke to the crowd Monday, he also urged them to vote for Education Bond D, which would provide $500,000 for a new science and technology building at the school.
Wherever you need a ride to vote whether its early voting or on the day were going to make sure you get a ride, Martin said.
Christina Castro of Jemez Pueblo, the Native American field coordinator for the Obama campaign in northern New Mexico, urged the group to vote for Bond C, too, which would provide funds to the Santa Fe Indian School to complete its campus, to Taos Pueblo for an elder center, and $2 million statewide for tribal libraries.
Castro reminded the students of the Native American voting history. In 1924, we were granted citizenship, but if you were living on a reservation, you were not allowed to vote, said Castro. In 1948, Miguel Trujillo of Isleta returned from serving in World War II and went to register to vote in Valencia County and was not allowed to vote.
Trujillo filed a lawsuit against the state and, later that year, a panel of judges ruled that the part of the New Mexico Constitution that excluded Native Americans living on reservations from voting violated the 14th and 15th Amendments.
By not voting, youre not exercising your power, Castro said. Your vote is your power.
San Carlos Apache Karl Duncan, President of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium Student Congress, told the group that 26,000 Native American students attend tribal colleges across the country and urged them to make a difference by voting.
Student Charles Harris, 23, of the Sauk and Fox tribe, who was attending the rally, said the colleges emphasis on voter registration was effective in his case he just recently registered to vote because of them.