Online Powwow Rallies Georgia Native Vote

“Make the vote. Catch the vote. Make the change,” rapped acclaimed hip hop performer Supaman (Apsaalooke Nation), seen left. With control of the Senate hanging on Georgia’s two January 5 run-off elections, Supaman, also called Christian Takes Gun Parrish, joined other Native artists and activists in a January 3 online event. Organized by Four Directions voting-rights group, the event was aimed at energizing the state’s indigenous voters. 

An estimated 40,000 strong, this bloc has a chance to be as influential in Georgia as the Native vote was across the country in November 2020. Though indigenous people make up a small portion of the US population, they are clustered in states—Alaska, Montana, Arizona, Nevada, and numerous others—where for decades they have had the final word in a range of federal, state, and county races. 

 

“We have Joe Biden as President because Indian country came out to vote,” said Congresswoman and Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland (D-NM; Laguna Pueblo) in a separate event, a December Town Hall. If Georgia’s two Democratic candidates, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, win on January 5, a Democrat will replace Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as the chamber’s majority leader. And that will mean the Violence Against Women Act, sacred sites protection, and other important legislative efforts can move forward, according to Haaland. 

 

“Getting two Democratic senators elected in Georgia would mean the world to all of us and to our entire country,” Haaland said. 

 

In the January 3 online event, more healing and empowerment came from world-champion jingle dancer and powwow-yoga innovator Acocia Red Elk (Umatilla), seen right, and celebrated Minneapolis chef Sean Sherman (Oglala Lakota), known professionally as the Sioux Chef. “We are the ambassadors for our ancestors,” said Erika Abke (Sac and Fox), Four Directions youth organizer. Event emcee was Four Directions co-chair OJ Semans (Rosebud Sioux). “Our future is in good hands,” he said of the youthful participants in the event. 

Semans worked with Principal Chief Marian McCormick (Lower Muskogee Tribe), from Tama, Georgia, and Civic Georgia, a community organizers’ collaborative, to produce the online evening. The Native organizing has not been entirely virtual in Georgia. Wearing PPE, Semans and his staffers have knocked on every door of every indigenous voter in the Atlanta metro area—some 15,000 homes—according to Miranda Junowicz, the group’s digital organizer and in-house legal adviser. 


According to Semans, Four Directions has also operated phone banks and mailed informational flyers. Principal Chief McCormick and her tribe have pounded the pavement in southern Georgia, where they are headquartered, Junowicz said.

 

“This is a very serious election,” Junowicz added, “but with this online event we also wanted to celebrate the vote.” Since being granted enfranchisement in 1924, Native people have endured voter suppression and harassment and been forced to bring voting-rights lawsuits to establish their legal and constitutional right to cast a ballot. Today, the indigenous community is vigorous, modern, and engaged culturally as well as politically, Junowicz said. Natives want to honor their right to have a voice—a vote—in decisions that impact their future.

 

Voting is not just about supporting a party, according to Semans. Native voters are issue oriented, he told Tiffany Cross of MSNBC’s Cross Connection and Roland Martin of Roland Martin Unfiltered. Martin asked Semans how Native people would vote in Georgia.  

 

Tribes, their people, their resources, and their sacred lands have suffered under the current Republican administration and Senate leadership, Semans responded. That makes a Native voter’s decision easy. “The last four years have been really detrimental,” Semans said, predicting that 95 percent of Georgia’s indigenous voters would go Democratic. 

 

Said Haaland in her Town Hall appearance, “This is our land, this is our country, and we have to fight for it every chance we get.” 

 

 

c. Stephanie Woodard; photos courtesy of the artists and Four Directions. 

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