Dean Chavers: Indian vote remains important in light of history

"There has been no Indian Voting Rights Act, and no congressional hearings or testimony on such a bill. But as I demonstrated in my book Racism in Indian Country, there are many conspiracies among non-Indians on or near reservations to keep Indian people from registering to vote and to keep them from voting. There have been dozens of lawsuits filed against county voter registrars, county commissioners and state officials over denying Indians the right to vote.

When they returned from World War II, many Indian veterans were upset that they still could not vote. They had fought for their country, only to be denied this basic constitutional right when they got home. They began to lobby Congress and the state legislatures to give them suffrage rights. They had been exposed to the world outside the reservation, some for the first time, and had started to learn that they had been cheated out of many things, such as adequate housing, an adequate education, decent jobs, and the right to vote. They found they could not get loans to buy cattle, to start businesses, to build houses on reservations, and to buy cars and trucks.

Indians could still not vote in New Mexico and Arizona as of 1948. The denial of the right to vote was in the constitution of the State of New Mexico. It stated that Indians living on reservations could not vote in state and federal elections. The Bureau of Indian Affairs had started to push to change such laws before the war started, but had gotten sidetracked by the war."

Get the Story:
Dean Chavers: A History of Indian Voting Rights and Why It’s Important to Vote (Indian Country Today 10/29)

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