The 2020 election has been a wild ride for all parties and people across the country. For better or worse this has been a rather historic election with unprecedented conditions, turnouts, and outcomes. This is especially true for the many First Nations people who have been elected to offices in the local and national levels. At the federal level, Yvette Herrell a Cherokee member from New Mexico became the
third First Nation woman to hold a seat in the 117th Congress’s House of Representatives. She will join Deb Haaland (laguana Pueblo from New Mexico) and Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk Nation from Kansas) who won their seats in 2018 and were reelected this year. For New Mexico, this is the first time that two First Nations women will be representing the state. Another record for First Nation women was that highest number of women (18) were running for congressional seats making up 2.6% of the women running for election. In total, six indigenous person won seats in the House of Representatives Tuesday. This includes Native Hawaiian Kaiali’I Kahele for Hawaii, Tom Cole (Chickasaw Nation) and Markwayne Mullin (Cherokee Nation) for Oklahoma, and the three women previously mentioned. Many more ran and were elected to positions at state and local levels. Details are reported on Indian Country Today and can be found here.
The COVID-19 pandemic further eliminated the lack of consideration for and hardships of Native American tribes and reservations. Lack of health care, clean water, internet, and electricity on reservation lands made it difficult and sometimes impossible for the people living there to stay safe. It also showed how little the government has done to help the tribes and others living in similar situations. However, this year also showed the country what an important role First Nations can play in politics. Groups like Native Vote aim to increase awareness of how important it is to vote. They register voters, discuss issues, recruit poll workers, and education people about the election system in order to increase voter turnout. In the past, First Nations people have had the lowest turnout rates because of various barriers placed upon them. First Nations votes have changed electoral outcomes in the past and have the ability to do that same in this election. As of last year, there were 1.2 million eligible First Nation voters who were unregistered. See more from GlobalCitizen here.
While statistics are not yet available for the turnout at this election, the impact has already been felt. More First Nations people have been elected to office this year than any other. Their voices are beginning to be heard and it appears organization such as Native Vote have been successful. Only time will tell how those results will play out in the presidential election. The long-forgotten constituency is finally making waves in politics. Let’s see how big they get.