This week on Minnesota Native News, native communities get out the vote and the Native organizations get 10-million dollars in the state bonding bill.
There are get out the vote efforts happening on reservations and in urban Native communities all around Minnesota.
In Minneapolis, the American Indian O-I-C is registering voters and getting them to early polling places.
The American Indian OIC helped get out the vote in 2018 and planned to do it again in 2020. But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Joe Hobot, the CEO says the question became – how do we connect with people to help them vote? He says they decided to folks get registered and vote by mail.
But then President Trump’s new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, made significant changes to the postal service which slowed mail service in some areas. Hobot says that raised a red flag.
“We wanted to make sure that no one in our community was disenfranchised. And our assessment was what was going down at the USPS looked like it would yield disenfranchisement of voters,” said Hobot.
So, Hobot and his staff changed course. They decided to hold a socially distanced outdoor voter registration gathering with fry bread tacos to entice urban Native folks to register to vote.
“And I got to tell you, based on the numbers, Indian tacos seemed to work!” said Hobot.
Hobot estimates over the course of the 2 hour event – about 200 people came and 150 registered to vote.
“It was a success beyond what our expectations were,” he said.
On Thursday October 29th the American Indian O-I-C is teaming up with the American Indian Movement to host another community event for voters.
They say it’s a celebration of the power of voting with a drum, fry bread tacos. Throughout the day, AIM patrol members will escort people to local polling stations to early vote in person.
For people who not registered to vote, you can register and vote on election day – November 3rd.
Just bring a picture ID and proof of your address to your local polling place.
According to the Secretary of State’s office, a friend or family member can vouch for your address.
In other election news…
The Red Lake Nation online newspaper reports the tribe registered 5,500 new voters in October.
The article says in early October Red Lake citizens took a one day voter registration training and fanned out across the region to visit with Red Lakers and register them to vote.
Canvassers were paid per hour and a friendly competition over who could register the most voters added excitement to the drive.
Then, beginning on October 25th drivers went back to those registered voters to offer them rides to the polls to vote early.
The Red Lake News reports drivers hope to get 20 to 50 voters to the polls each day up to election day on November 3rd.
The voter registration drive and rides to the polls has been lead by Red lake Supervisors Tori Lussier, Doreen Wells and her son Jon Mason, along with Mike Simkins and Brett Healey from the Native-led voter rights group Four Directions.
And news from the state capital…
The State bonding bill that passed on October 14th includes more than 10-million dollars for a handful of American Indian organizations in Minnesota.
The Minneapolis American Indian Center will get 2.6 million dollars.
Executive Director Mary LaGarde says they’ve been trying for years to get money to renovate the building.
A few years ago she requested 7.6 million for the project and received 5 million from the legislature.
“So I’ve been back at the street legislature every session thereafter to get the 2.6 million that we did not get the first time,” said LaGarde.
This year, she asked for assistance from the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council and through them the Shakopee Mdewaukanton Sioux Community offered to help.
“I was very fortunate the Shakopee Mdewaukanton Sioux Community provided lobbyists to the Minneapolis American Indian Center and that really made a world of difference.” said LaGarde.
Other native-specific organizations receiving state bonding support include The Indigenous People’s Task Force, and the Native American Community Clinic – both in Minneapolis.
The Northwest Indian Community Development Center in Bemidji is also receiving state dollars.
One tribe was allowed bonding money —
The Red Lake Nation will receive nearly 6 million dollars for their Family and Child Building.
Melissa Townsend reporting for Minnesota Native News