Indian Country is Riding to the Polls

navajo nation allie young coronavirus
(Talia Mayden @taliamayden / HUMAN @thehumanstory)

Navajo Nation resident and activist Allie Young—who has been leading voter registration and other voting and census efforts throughout Indian Country through her organization Protect the Sacred—has been organizing “Ride to the Polls,” to encourage Navajo Nation voters to cast their ballots in the 2020 election.

In partnership with When We All Vote and March on the Polls, Young led the first ride last week, and will have the final ride this Friday—the last day to vote early in Arizona at 10 a.m. MDT—where she and at least 30 other riders will ride to the Navajo Country Recorder’s Office in Holbrook, Ariz.

Young said she decided to organize this ride because she noticed Native young voters weren’t feeling motivated to participate in this year’s election. Native young people are feeling reluctant to participate in a system that has never worked for their people, said Young: “There’s a resistance to the colonial system that has never worked for us.”

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Nevertheless, something feels different this year, according to Young.

“Knowing that our youth are more educated than ever and have a burning desire to reconnect to our cultures, traditions and ‘old ways,’ I thought we could motivate them and get them excited by presenting them with an action that our ancestors and elders took to ensure that they were exercising the right that they fought for us to have,” she said.

navajo nation allie young coronavirus
Allie Young. (Talia Mayden @taliamayden / HUMAN @thehumanstory)

“We hear stories about how our grandparents and their parents didn’t have cars but they still rode on horseback for miles and hours just to vote. By communicating this history and reminding our youth of these stories, we hope that they’ll get excited and will be motivated to follow in their ancestors’ footsteps, and that they’ll join us in making our voices heard with our votes.”

Staying politically engaged is also a way to pay tribute those who have died from the coronavirus this year, Young adds.

Navajo Nation—an American Indian territory occupying portions of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico—is in the midst of a massive public health crisis, with a higher per capita COVID-19 death rate than any U.S. state.

“I’m reminding my community: Let’s remember what our elders have been through during this pandemic—the elders who lost their lives and are not able to vote,” said Young.

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Protect the Sacred is a grassroots initiative to educate and empower Navajo youth and young people throughout Indian Country to rise up as the next generation of leaders in protecting our elders, our languages, our medicine ways, and our cultures. Right now our communities are being endangered by the COVID-19 virus and we must work together to slow and stop the spread of the virus to the most vulnerable.