The issue hits particularly close to home for this community. In 2018, Mollie Tibbetts, a non-Native student at the University of Iowa student went missing 30 miles away from the Settlement. Her body was found nearly a month after she went missing. “Rita Papakee is a Meskwaki woman and she’s been missing for five years now,” says Wanatee. ”We’re frustrated that it is taking so long to find out what happened to her.” “For us, it is important to remember that these issues live way beyond politics for us. They are real life and that’s why we need to take this especially seriously.”
Leah Slick-Driscoll, whose Meskwaki name is Wasosea, teaches high school students at the Meskwaki Settlement school. She is known in the community for making sure her students are informed about national politics. “These students won’t be my students forever,” Slick-Driscoll says. “But if I can get my foot in the door to let them know how important this is … than that is step one in creating a positive pattern.” Slick-Driscoll has students create a bulletin board of every presidential candidate’s policies. To do this, she ensures they read news articles about candidates and regularly check national polling numbers. On Monday night, Slick-Driscoll offered students extra credit if they went caucusing. She also baked a cake for her students as another incentive to attend. And they did attend. A group of seven students participated. They even answered questions in a live interview with Indian Country Today at the event. On camera, they discussed which candidates they considered supporting. One student shared they were being strategic based on who could defeat Trump. They said the cake was good too.
Every story has a Native angle. Mary Annette Pember (@mapember) and I had a heck of time covering the #IowaCaucuses from the Meskwaki Indian Settlement. Thanks for joining us on @IndianCountry. 😊 #NativeCaucus #NativeVote20 pic.twitter.com/4NbnULZzOH— Aliyah Chavez (@AliyahJChavez) February 4, 2020
An hour and a half drive away from the Meskwaki tribal gymnasium, Slick-Driscoll’s daughter was encouraging the Native students at the University of Iowa to caucus as well. Little Wolf Woman, also known as Keely Driscoll, helped plan an Indigenous led “pre-caucus social” at the University of Iowa. She partnered with other members of the the Native American Student Association to provide dinner, refreshments, desserts and painting before the official caucus event began Monday night. Driscoll, Meskwaki and Winnebago, is a 19-year-old student at the University. She majors in International Studies, Native Studies and Sustainability. She says encouraging other young Native people to be politically active is important to her because of the Meskwaki women who have acted as role models in her life. “I feel so lucky to have Meskwaki women to look up to like my mom and others,” Driscoll said. “Some Indigenous youth don’t have positive role models but I’ve been really lucky in that sense. I want to encourage young people to grow into those spaces too." Support Indian Country Today by becoming a member!
Meskwaki caucus precinct gets 9 state delegates.— Indian Country Today (@IndianCountry) February 4, 2020
Final delegate count after the first alignment and second alignment: Sanders, 5; Warren, 2; Yang, 2.#NativeVote20 #NativeCaucus #IowaCaucus pic.twitter.com/3WtaWChhxz
Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today's Phoenix Bureau. Follow her on Twitter @aliyahjchavez or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
This story originally appeared on Indian Country Today on February 4, 2020.