Montana Public Radio

Marci McLean

Indigenous Get Out The Vote Groups Make Final Push

Nov 2, 2020

With one day left before Election Day, Native American rights advocates are making a final push to get out the vote as COVID-19 cases rise and the temperature drops.

At a recent voter registration drive-through event on the Crow Reservation, workers wearing masks and gloves help drivers fill out registration forms. Western Native Voice, a nonprofit working for Native American empowerment, held many events like this across Montana throughout the summer and fall.

For the first time, almost every county in Montana is using all-mail in ballots this election season. Voters can still drop off their ballots in person if they want. But experts say mailing ballots is the best way to make the election accessible during the pandemic. This new system is bringing with it all kinds of uncertainties about logistics, reliability and the timeframe of the results. Still, election officials are trying to figure out how to make it work for everybody.

This is Shared State, a podcast about what's driving Montana's 2020 elections and where the outcomes could lead us. This week, "Equality of Opportunity."

A 2020 Montana primary election absentee ballot
Nicky Ouellet / Yellowstone Public Radio

With Montana's primary elections less than two weeks away, a judge temporarily blocked a voter-approved law that restricts collection of absentee ballots.

New Nonprofit Tackles COVID-19 In Native, Rural Communities

May 14, 2020
Doctor with a swab test
iStock

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A new public health advocacy organization in Montana is targeting the needs of rural and Native communities responding to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Chase Comes at Night, Marcos Lopez, Jazz Walker, and N’zshonico Cummins are members of the Billings Schools Tribal Council. They attended the 2018 Indigenous Movements Interchange in Great Falls last week.
Corin Cates-Carney


Chase Comes at Night, who is Blackfeet, is a high school senior in Billings who wants to get more involved in politics.

“The issues that I would focus on addressing would be, most likely, poverty and just connecting our reservations and rural areas to the real world," Comes at Night says. "On the reservations it seems like it's more of a third world compared to what we live in.”

Women's Marches Draw Thousands Across Montana

Jan 21, 2018
Josh Burnham

Thousands of people gathered at events across Montana Saturday to participate in this year’s Women’s March. Each event had its own organizers and theme.

In Missoula, pink hats, red sashes, and sassy signs peppered downtown Saturday morning, as an estimated 3,000 people gathered for the second Women’s March. Last year, a centralized march held at the state capitol drew an estimated 10,000 people. But this year, 9 cities hosted coordinated rallies.

Zephry Holloway's grandmother painted the motarboard for his high school graduation ceremony. The school said he couldn't wear it.
Muriel Winnier

Graduation ceremonies this spring became the testing ground for a new state law that protects tribal members’ right to wear regalia at significant public events. Most have gone off without a hitch — students across the state are receiving their diplomas in beaded caps and gowns, but schools are still trying to figure out how to implement the new law.

High school seniors Jessica Not Afraid, left, Georgeline Morsette and Shaylee St. Marks wear  their beaded graduation caps to support Senate Bill 319 at the Montana Legislature Tuesday,  March 14.
Freddy Monares

Gov. Steve Bullock will hold a signing ceremony tomorrow for a bill that will allow Native Americans to wear traditional regalia during public events, including high school graduations.

“This bill means a lot to me. It’s important that our youth are able to display their culture and their identity during monumental events, such as graduation,” says Marci McLean, the director of Western Native Voice, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Polling place sign.
IIP Photo Archive

New satellite election offices near and on American Indian Reservations in Montana saw low turnout before the primary, but state and tribal officials are still calling the effort to expand voting equality a success.