Whereas the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924 technically gave Native Americans the right to vote, it would be decades, until 1962, before Indigenous peoples were allowed to vote in all 50 states.
To encourage Native voters to cast their ballots, Allie Young is saddling up with residents of the Navajo Nation to “Ride to the Polls” on horseback in Kayenta, Arizona.
Young, 30, launched her Ride to the Polls initiative in early October, as part of her nonprofit, Protect the Sacred, founded in March. The nonprofit was initially focused on helping Native communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-10.
“We started by focusing on covid relief, but we’ve now shifted to the most important election of our lifetime,” Young told the Washington Post of Protect the Sacred.
Ride to Polls encourages Native American youth to vote while connected to their cultural heritage. Young has led riders on a 10-mile route from Church Rock in Navajo County to the polling stations in Kayenta, Arizona, and again today on Election Day, November 3rd, starting at 10 am MDT, she’ll lead riders from Kayenta to the Kayenta polls on horse.
“We decided to organize our Ride to the Polls because we’ve been hearing that our Native young voters aren’t feeling so motivated to participate in this year’s election. We’re hearing that our young people are feeling reluctant to participate in a colonial system that has never worked for our people, which is a very valid point, but we also want to make sure that you do cast your ballots because this election is just too important to sit out,” Young posted on Instagram.
“We know that our youth are more educated than ever and have a burning desire to reconnect to our cultures, languages and traditions, so let’s take this action, together, that is rooted in our culture – an action that our ancestors and elders took to ensure that they were exercising the right that our ancestors fought for. We hear stories about how our grandparents and their parents didn’t have cars but they still rode on horseback for miles and hours just to vote. By communicating this history and reminding you, our youth, of these stories, we hope that you’ll be motivated to follow in our ancestors’ footsteps, and that you’ll join us in making our voices heard with our votes.”
Only 66 percent of the Native population is registered to vote across the United States, leaving more than a million eligible voters unregistered, according to a recent report by the Native American Rights Fund. But the ballots that can still be cast by registered voters matter.
“This election is just too important to sit out,” Young emphasizes.