50 years ago, Native peoples came together in solidarity at Wounded Knee, South Dakota: the site where U.S. troops massacred hundreds of Lakota people in 1890.
Fighting for civil rights and sovereignty in 1973, Native peoples gathered together to meet about the problems facing Indian Country and they were met by federal military action. The National Guard and armed FBI agents swarmed in and began a 71-day standoff, punishing many protesters with criminal charges and political imprisonment.
50 years later, we commemorate the occupation of Wounded Knee, which sparked a movement to change the relationship between our sovereign nations and the federal government. Their action was a call to build Native political power. And we renew the call for sovereignty and Indigenous rights, including voting rights.
In 1973, Native peoples in South Dakota were facing major obstacles to voting. South Dakota was called the “Mississippi of the North.”
Today, Native communities in the U.S. still face voter suppression and discrimination that restricts their ability to exercise their right to vote.
In fact, since the historic Native voter turnout in 2020, 19 states have passed 33 laws restricting the right to vote. As of today, 32 states have introduced 150 restrictive laws. For example, in South Dakota, a lawsuit was introduced against the state due to a state redistricting plan that would blatantly dilute the ability for Native representation in government in violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
For people living on reservations, there are unique barriers to voting.
Polling places are sometimes hundreds of miles away from reservations. The government has not invested in infrastructure on reservations like Internet access, so it can be difficult to register to vote online. Many people only have Post Office Boxes as their only mailing address, which can limit voting by mail. Some members of Tribal communities only have Tribal IDs, which have been rejected in many states for voting — particularly in states with new, stricter voter ID laws.
To address this crisis and protect Native voting rights, Congress must act now to pass the Native American Voting Rights Act. The bill will:
- Mandate voter registration, early voting, and polling places on Native land.
- Allow tribes to designate a building on-reservation where the address can be used to register, pick up, and drop off ballots.
- Require states to accept tribally issued IDs as voter identification.
- Provide for culturally appropriate language assistance so people who speak Native languages can still vote.
Please sign now to support the Native American Voting Rights Act as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the occupation of Wounded Knee.