I’ve worked on getting Native voters to vote for quite some time. Whenever I’ve volunteered for various campaigns, I’ve always been asked to call into Indian communities. My first real push at outreach, however, came when I volunteered in 2008. The Obama campaign was unprecedented in its outreach and resources spent in New Mexico Indian communities. It was like nothing I had ever seen. The regional field director in charge of the Southern Pueblos was unrelenting, and she used every available creative and intellectual tactic to engage Indian voters.
One tactic she used was cooking. Who can resist a rally where hot green chile stew and homemade Pueblo oven bread are served? We also marched in parades with life-size photo cutouts of then-Senator Barack Obama and set up voter registration booths during Pueblo Feast Days. We were everywhere, and folks remembered us because no campaign had ever devoted itself so well to the Native vote.
On Election Day 2008, I managed the Laguna pueblo, stationing poll watchers at all six precincts and sending volunteers with snacks and drinks for voters waiting in line. At 6:45, when I picked up my last voter, an elderly woman, to drive her to the Laguna Village precinct, she thanked me profusely, saying that she had waited all day for her daughter to take her to vote. She obtained her ballot at 6:57. As I helped her out of my car, she said, “Now I can feel good about myself; thank you.” I stated likewise.
On my way home, I tuned into NPR, and soon after I buckled my seat belt, my very close grassroots volunteer friend called to say “WE DID IT!” It was a victory worth celebrating, and my daughter and I did so with root beer floats, as we watched the President Elect speak from Grant Park.
This time around, I am every bit as inspired as I was in 2008, only now the President has a long list of accomplishments for Indian Country. His dedication to Native solutions and support in Indian communities, specifically in New Mexico, led the All Indian Pueblo Council to give New Mexico’s first official endorsement to the President on December 15, 2011. It was the grandest of affairs. I expect that 2012 will be every bit as exciting and rewarding as 2008.
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