Louise Erdrich: Getting out the vote in a tribal housing complex

"Little Earth of United Tribes is a Native-preference housing development within the larger city of Minneapolis, and it is where my daughter Persia and have gone to work in the past two elections. In 2008 the weather was fine and with other people we excitedly roamed among the stucco duplex homes, canvassing, talking, helping new voters register. Minnesota has same-day registration. That year, two homeless people who wanted to vote registered. One woman had slept underneath a playground slide for months. That was her address. The other person had a certain tree. This year the weather is lousy—drizzly and cold. Instead of the muted hysteria of the last election, there is an impressive sense of organized determination.

For one thing, the T-shirts.

Muriel Thompson, of the Red Lake Nation in upstate Minnesota, has just voted, and now she is resting, a beautiful older round-faced lady with lively dark eyes. She is laughing and proud of her gray “Make Voting a Tradition” long-sleeved T. On it, three powwow dancers wait for a dancer in a voting booth. Only his moccasins, ankle bells, and fringed apron show beneath the curtain.

“This shirt means we’ve been thinking about the vote,” Muriel says. “Us, we take it seriously!” Muriel tells me that a neighborhood worker came around and gave her a cardboard feather. “One side the place we vote, and how to do it. You turn the feather around when you are done. Put it in your window. When I go home, I’ll turn my feather around.”"

Get the Story:
Louise Erdrich: Voting in Little Earth (The New Yorker 11/8)

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