In 1948, Isleta Pueblo member Miguel Trujillo Sr. successfully fought for our right as Native Americans to vote within our state of New Mexico. Our great-grandparents and grandparents can recall and share stories of a time when they were prohibited to vote in local, state and federal elections, despite having resided on this land since time immemorial. New Mexico also has the second-highest percentage of Native Americans, with one in 10 New Mexicans enrolled as a member of a tribal nation. Despite this resplendent concentration of indigenous people, our state was among the last in the country to grant suffrage to all our tribal members within its borders.
On Nov. 6, the voting booths will be open throughout the United States. In every election we have the opportunity to contribute, ensuring the protection of our greatest values – our land, people and sovereignty. Today’s generation of native peoples may have greater access to the voting booths than our grandparents and great-grandparents did 70 years ago, but far too often we do not exercise our right to vote. We are also reminded of the history and significance of our vote as the voting rights of our native relatives in North Dakota are currently endangered by discriminatory regulations. Voting is a critical measure of protection in the current political climate that we, as Pueblo and native peoples, cannot afford to ignore.
At stake is the current and future well-being of our Pueblo nations and communities. At stake today is the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2018, which provides appropriations to ensure our society does more to prevent and respond to violence against our native women. At stake is the recent ruling from a Texas judge who declared the Indian Child Welfare Act unconstitutional, which threatens to remove common-sense protections and sustainability of our native family structures, culture and nationhood. At stake is the protection of the Greater Chaco landscape and Bears Ears National Monument, places that connect us with those who’ve come before us and cultural resources that belong to our present and future generations. As young Pueblo people and Native Americans, we need to remember that we have the responsibility to honor the prayers, time, resources and sacrifices of our ancestors. Through their struggles, our ancestors gifted us with tools and wisdom to protect and sustain ourselves, our communities and future generations.
Our vote is our voice, and while our vote is not the only voice we have, our vote matters. This is a call to action from the young Pueblo leaders of the All Pueblo Council of Governors Youth Committee for all generations of our Pueblo and native peoples to get out to vote, not only for yourselves but for others that have come before and those that come after us. Vote for your grandfathers, your grandmothers, your aunties, uncles, cousins, older and younger siblings, our babies, and those generations forthcoming.