Indigenous

November 5, 2020

The election cycle has been filed with zaniness from the start back in 2019.  Even with the voting over, it continues to amaze.  Fears of gathering in large crowds on election day led to absentee and early voting.  The issues (economy vs. health) touted by the Presidential candidates resulted in massive voter turnout.  University of Florida professor Michael McDonald More estimates more than 160 million people may have voted in this presidential election.  That would mean 66.9 percent of the eligible voting population, the highest rate since 73.7 percent in 1900.  Such high turnout is especially impressive given that it happened during a pandemic.  It seems many believed their vote mattered.

It was not just the numbers that were impressive.  The winners included many firsts.  A record number of women of color and LGBTQ candidates ran for Congress this year.  This followed the mid-term election that also saw barrier-breaking lawmakers elected in 2018. This included the first Muslim women elected to Congress (Reps. Ilhan Omar – D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib – D-Mich.); the first Native American women (Reps. Sharice Davids – D-Kan.) and Deb Haaland – D-N.M.); and the youngest congresswoman ever (Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – D-N.Y.).  All won reelection on Tuesday.

What I found interesting were the six Indigenous candidates winning their U.S. House races.  One of the new members is Democrat Kaiali’i “Kai” Kahele, who won his race in Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District.  New Mexico boasts a barrier-breaking House delegation that is all women of color.  Along with Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, Republican Yvette Herrell, who is Cherokee, unseated a Democratic incumbent in the 2nd Congressional District and Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez, who is Latina, won an open seat in the 3rd Congressional District.  New Mexico’s population has a majority for people of color, with 49% Latina, 37% non-Latina white, and 11% Native American.  It is about time our Representatives actually “represented” us.

Thoughts:  I came across a news feed this week where the Cherokee Nation was (again) petitioning the government to honor its word.  In a treaty, ratified by the Senate and signed by President Andrew Jackson in 1835, the Cherokee Nation was granted a delegate to Congress.  It is 184 years later, and the pledge has not been honored.  Kim Teehee was named to that post in September by the tribe’s chief, Chuck Hoskin Jr.  The move set off a series of technical and moral questions for leaders in Congress, who are now tasked with determining whether to allow her to take her seat.  I am surprised and amazed how BIPOC peoples continue to trust in a system that has discounted them for over 500 years.  Given Tuesday’s vote, Indigenous people are already represented in Congress. Still, it would be nice to keep at least one promise made for stealing land.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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