Indian Country Is Pivotal to a Diverse Coalition of Voters

Faith Holyan, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, says: “We are a political force that can make a difference in 2020. I am excited to serve as the Indian Gaming ambassador to help bring awareness to the importance of getting to the polls.” (NIGA)

NIGA Kicks Up ‘My Vote Will Count’ Campaign

Democrats anticipate Kamala Harris, as the first black woman on a major party ticket, will inspire stronger minority voter turnout. Meanwhile Indian Country is encouraging Natives to cast their ballots. 

Democrats formally nominated former Vice President Joe Biden as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2020 election on Tuesday during the 2020 Democratic National Convention (DNC), conducted virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. He will accept on Thursday. 

And last night, democrats officially nominated Senator Kamala Harris for the vice presidency, and she made history with her acceptance. Harris is the first woman of color on a major party ticket. 

While voters may not equate racial representation with change, Democrats believe turnout among minority voters may be higher with Harris as Biden’s running mate. 

READ MORE: Kamala Harris Named Joe Biden’s Running Mate 

“We can do better and deserve so much more. We must elect a president who will bring something different, something better and do the important work,” Harris said. (DNC screen still)

Last night Harris also spoke to her and Biden’s vision of America, “where all are welcome, no matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we love.”

That’s something much of Indian Country is advocating for — the Native vote. The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) has developed a grassroots effort with partners to educate, empower, and encourage all Native Americans to register to vote and commit to getting to the polls.

In October, NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. announced the creation of the gaming organizations Get Out the Vote campaign – “My Vote Will Count,” leading up to the 2020 General Elections in November of 2020. “The Native American vote is so important. Our power at the polls can determine our voice among the halls of Congress, at the White House, in Local, City, County, and State governments,” Stevens said.  

READ MORE: Ernie Stevens, Jr.: Serving Tribal Governments as the Global Face of Indian Gaming 

To help target the young vote, Stevens appointed Faith Holyan, a citizen of the Navajo Nation as the “My Vote will Count” youth ambassador.

Holyan, who has a prominent social media presence in Indian Country, is a three-time Indian National Finals Rodeo world champion. She’s no stranger to being a leading voice for Indian youth. Over the past few years, Faith has been an advocate for #CodePurple, the social media Suicide Awareness campaign that NIGA has been a sponsor of since its inception.

“Faith will continue to serve an important role in our get out the vote campaign, sharing her powerful message, calling on our young leaders to champion Native Americas get out the vote initiative,” Stevens said. 

Holyan added, “Our youth vote has the potential to be extremely influential in this country; the young vote accounts for half of the voting population, so we are a political force that can make a difference in 2020. I am excited to serve as the Indian Gaming ambassador to help bring awareness to the importance of getting to the polls.”

Besides being a three-time rodeo World Champion, Holyan graduated in cum laude with two associate degrees from Weatherford College in Weatherford, Texas, where she was on an athletic rodeo scholarship. She is currently a Junior at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, studying Marketing and Communications on academic scholarships.

DNC Native American Caucus

The first virtual DNC Native American Caucus took place Tuesday, hosted by Rion Ramirez, chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Native American Council, a member of the DNC’s Executive Committee and National Finance Committee, with speakers including Rep. Deb Haaland, (Laguna Pueblo); Rep. Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk Nation); Minnesota Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan (White Earth Band of Ojibwe); Ambassador Keith Harper (Cherokee Nation); Theresa Sheldon (Tulalip Tribes); Avery Underwood (Comanche Nation); Sam Lopez (Tohono O’odham); Jaldyn Probst (Lower Sioux Indian Community); Chairman Ned Norris (Tohono O’odham Nation); Chairman Bryan Newland (Bay Mills Indian Community); Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen., Cory Booker, and Rep. Rueben Gallego, among others.

The Empowering Native Youth panel, moderated by Paulette Jordan, a 2020 candidate for United States Senate in Idaho, emphasized the importance of youth engagement in the 2020 elections. Sam Lopez, Avery Underwood, and Jalydn Proust, all youth advocates, joined Jordan in the discussions. 

READ MORE: Senate Hopeful Paulette Jordan: Economic Opportunity, Pragmatic Progressivism 

The Environmental Justice panel brought together Ambassador Keith Harper, former Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault, Bay Mills Indian Community Chairman Bryan Newland, and Kimberly Williams.

The next Native American Caucus, one of the DNC’s official constituency caucuses, will meet on August 20 at 4:00 PM ET and will be open to delegates and the public.

READ MORE: Navajo Nation President Nez to Keynote Tonight’s Democratic National Convention 

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