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Native Americans Scored Big Election Wins in Washington State and Beyond

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Article first appeared in In These Times in November 2018. 


TACOMA, WASH.—Chester Earl, 45, and about 300 members of Washington state tribes—from Tulalip, Yakama, Lummi, Quinault, Port Gamble S'Klallam, Earl’s own Puyallup community and more—are gathered at an election night party in a Tacoma catering hall, singing, drumming, dancing, feasting and watching returns from around the state and country. “It’s incredible,” Earl exclaims as the big news comes in: Initiative 940, a Washington state ballot initiative which approves new police reform measures, has passed with more than 60 percent of the vote. Earl and about 15 of the attendees have just returned from a two-week reservation-to-reservation tour, N8tive Vote 2018. The tour held rallies on the state’s 29 tribal homelands and encouraged members to get to the polls, particularly to say yes to I-940, which, among other reforms, makes it easier to prosecute law enforcement officers who misuse deadly force. As In These Times has previo…

Digital Smoke Signals

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A version of this article first appeared in Rural America In These Times in October 2018.


Silicon Valley met Indian country in Minneapolis. In a two-day early-October session, longtime software developer Deepak Puri taught tribal representatives—from Leech Lake, Red Lake, Menominee, Rosebud, Sisseton-Wahpeton, Crow Creek, Lower Brule, Navajo, and more—to use cheap, fast, off-the-shelf technology to supercharge voter access to the polls in Indian country. 

As Puri explained the steps, attendees dug into their cellphones and laptops and quickly created a succession of bots, videos, coded maps, and other high-tech items. The  results looked to be effective weapons against the continual and extreme suppression of the Native vote, covered by In These Timesand by Rural America In These Times, including hereherehere, and here.
“It’s the twenty-first-century moccasin path,” said Judith LeBlanc, Caddo Nation director of event sponsor Native Organizers Alliance, a nationwide forum for grassroo…

20,000 Native Voters for North Dakota?

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A version of this article first appeared in Rural America In These Times in October 2018.

A major voting hurdle for Native American voters in many states used to be thought of as a kind of force of nature, like gravity or sunshine: Indian reservations generally didn’t have named, numbered streets. And without these designations on the tribal IDs that Natives carry, they could easily be banned from voting.​ There appeared to be no way around the problem when North Dakota recently declared that was the case there—no ballot box access for Native voters unless were willing to undertake prohibitively long and costly drives and other hurdles to get an alternate ID. “It is a voter-suppression technique North Dakota targets at its Native population,” accused OJ Semans, the Rosebud Sioux co-director of Four Directions voting rights group. In September, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals backed the North Dakota law in a case brought by the Native American Rights Fund. The next month, the Suprem…

Now available—American Apartheid: The Native American Struggle for Self-Determination and Inclusion

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This short video includes images and descriptions from my book, now available wherever books are sold, including online from the publisher at igpub.com: 
American Apartheid: The Native American Struggle for Self-Determination and Inclusion
The video can be seen on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mx1jJZkMGxU&feature=youtu.be

Court Backs Navajo Candidate, Blasts Utah County

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This article first appeared on the Rural America In These Times site in August 2018.


Navajo Democrat Willie Grayeyes.   (Facebook / Indian Country Today) The United States District Court for Utah has issued a powerfully worded order in favor of restoring Willie Grayeyes’s right to vote in San Juan County, as well as his right to run for a county commission seat there. Calling county officials “double-tongued,” “thimble-riggers,” and more, the court held that they had stripped fundamental civil rights—voting and candidacy—from Grayeyes, a Navajo Nation enrolled member and a long-time resident, voter, local official, and cattle rancher in the county.  It had done so with illegal means, according to the order. These included backdated files, unsigned “reports,” unidentified hearsay sources, racial bias, out and out lies, and multiple additional actions that flouted the law in an exceptionally flagrant fashion. This was consistent with decades of denying Natives meaningful access to the b…

Navajo Candidate Kicked Off Utah Ballot Files Suit

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This article was first published on the Rural America In These Times site in August 2018.
Willie Greyeyes, third from left, stands with fellow Utah Diné Bikéyah board members at a 2015 Bears Ears gathering. Diné Bikéyah (pronounced di-NAY bi-KAY-uh) means “people’s sacred lands” in the Navajo language.   (Image: utahdinebikeyah.org) San Juan County, Utah’s white Republican establishment isn’t going down without a fight in this year’s elections—or at least a whole lot of shenanigans. That’s according to a new federal lawsuit filed by Willie Grayeyes, a Navajo candidate for one of the three seats on the county commission. San Juan County is challenging Grayeyes’s residency, just as it did during the 2012 election. Grayeyes passed muster then, and the county ended up certifying him as eligible to run for office.  This time though, the county is giving the challenge its best shot. According to the lawsuit by Grayeyes, a Navajo and Democrat, the county has nixed his right to run for the c…

Plant a Tree and Save the World—Easier Than You Think!

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A version of this article was first published on the site Rural America In These Times in June 2018.


Don’t despair, if you feel political decisions nowadays are not being made on your behalf—or even against your wishes, says Clayton Apikan Brascoupé, a Mohawk farmer who has lived and worked for many years at Tesuque Pueblo, in New Mexico. 
His solution? “Start by planting trees,” Brascoupé advises. “They are a positive answer to climate change and much more. Trees build up soils organically and increase their water-holding capacity. They sequester excess climate-altering carbon dioxide. They attract beneficial insects that help other crops and produce food, medicine, building material and other useful items. Planting them can transform a community.” 
Brascoupé directs the Traditional Native American Farmers Association(TNAFA), headquartered in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Tiny TNAFA, with its director and a few volunteers, specializes in projects that are accomplished easily with inexpensive lo…