MTPR

Montana Native Vote Mobilizes Voters In Indian Country

Nov 6, 2018

Get out the vote groups worked down to the last hour to help eligible voters cast a ballot in today’s midterm election.

On Saturday at a community feed in Polson attended by nearly 200 people, Montana Native Vote organized rides to the polls, collected absentee ballots to deliver to the election office and stumped for their endorsed Democratic candidates and ballot initiatives.

Patrick Yawakie is Zuni Pueblo and organizes with Montana Native Vote. He teared up as he  told the crowd the organization is trying to make voting a tradition in Indian Country.

"When we invite our kids this, to see our elders coming out to this. This can only grow. We're going to need a bigger church next year," Yawakie said to cheers from the crowd.

Yawakie says this election is important for Indian Country to defend tribal sovereignty and treaty rights.

More than a dozen tribal members are running for positions in the Montana Legislature.

Native Americans didn’t win the right to vote until the Indian Citizenship Act was passed 1924, and even then many states, including Montana, barred them from voting due to tribal enrollment or living on a reservation. Many of those laws were in place through the 1970s.

Montana Native Vote spent the summer registering eligible voters in Indian Country, including more than 400 people on the Flathead Reservation.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Yawakie's group as Western Native Vote.

Find live results for Montana's races here starting once the polls close at 8 p.m. And tune in on your radio or online for NPR's special election coverage from Montana and around the country, starting at 6 p.m.