Opinion: Voting rights work showed what it means to be Native

Plaintiffs and supporters in Wandering Medicine voting rights case. Photo by Joseph Zummo / Reporting from Indian Country

Professor Jean Reith Schroedel shares why she got involved in Wandering Medicine v. McCulloch, a Native voting rights case that was recently settled by the state of Montana:
[T]oday there are 5.2 million people with Native American ancestry. That is roughly the equivalent to the number of Jews in the United States---a group that politicians regularly court. Yet few politicians worry about the Native vote and the reason is that nearly 40 percent of those eligible to vote are not even registered. And that leads into what I was doing in Montana and South Dakota. I had agreed to be an expert witness in the Wandering Medicine v. McCulloch voting rights case. While most of my traveling was related to that case, I learned quite a bit about things unrelated to voting rights, but that gave me a sense of what it means to be Native in some communities.

One of the first things I learned is that Indians love basketball---everywhere I went I saw basketball hoops and people playing pick-up games. I also heard stories about discrimination related to basketball.

A Crow woman told me that whenever they played a white team off-reservation the gymnasium would be packed with police and after the game, the road back to the reservation would have sobriety checkpoints, but that the whites traveling in the opposite direction were not stopped.

A Northern Cheyenne told me about his experiences driving off reservation. His car has a sticker proclaiming that he is a “proud Native Marine veteran.” The police in this particular town had a reputation for stopping cars being driven by Indians, so he wanted to see if this was true.

Sure enough, he was stopped. The officer told him that his tail light was not working so he was going to be ticketed. When the man pulled out identification showing that he was a retired police officer, he was let go.

Get the Story:
Jean Reith Schroedel: Understanding the Sins of the Founding Fathers (Indian Country Today 7/1)

Related Stories:
Montana settles lawsuit over voting locations on reservations (06/13)
DOJ to consult tribes about polling locations in Indian Country (6/10)
In These Times: Montana tribal members fight for voting rights (6/10)
Oliver Semans: Native people deserve equal access to voting box (2/19)
Al Jazeera: 9th Circuit takes up Indian voting rights lawsuit (10/07)
Indian voting rights lawsuit carries impact in Senate election (7/16)

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