Vote: It’s Your Right and Your Responsibility

Renée Roman Nose

To all our non-Native friends, this November is Native American Heritage Month and the month when we as a nation celebrate Thanksgiving. It is also the anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre and the month in which we elect a President. I would ask for your discretion this month, as many of my Native friends may be a bit touchy this month. I know I will be.

Many of us find it ironic and stereotypical to be thought of during the “Thanksgiving Month” and largely ignored the rest of the year. It’s as if we’re a favorite relative who only shows up for special occasions. In reality we are everywhere every day of the year. Many of us serve in the military, serving at a higher per capita rate than any other group in America. Many Tribes come from a strong warrior tradition and a firm belief in protecting what is ours. Our culture, our languages, our heritages, our homes, our families, just as our ancestors did during those hundreds of years when strangers were flooding our land and taking our resources. Today we protect all Americans, and we ask that you, in turn, protect us with your vote.

Educate yourself on the reality of American history, realize that all Natives do not look alike, don't believe anything Donald Trump says about Natives (or anything else for that matter) and consider that the wealth you have is based upon the land and resources given up, stolen, swindled and otherwise largely removed from our care as Native people. We don't begrudge wealth; it just isn't (for the most part) something that we strive for.

In my culture, our chiefs are required to care for our community members, they cannot refuse to help us if we ask and they have the resources. I like this difference in our cultures very much. In fact, I am very proud of my people that most would help others whether they were from their community or not. That's how we are, community focused, not so much individually focused.

This month also marks the 148th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre. A dark time in our nation’s history where we as Native people were asked by the US military to camp near Fort Lyon in Colorado. Our men went east to hunt for buffalo. While they were gone we were attacked and women, children and elders were brutally murdered by those who later sought to “civilize” us. I don’t carry a grudge for what has happened to my people, but I do carry those memories of what my people have given up, all of my Native people. Millions of acres, but more importantly, millions of lives have been lost.

Many of us are cavalier about the election, some claiming, “It doesn’t matter whether or not I vote.” I’m here to tell you that it does matter, it matters to every relative that you have. If we elect someone who is not an ally then what will we have? More battles to come, battles occur in the courtroom today, but don’t pretend that they aren’t battles nonetheless. Who will help us protect our land if we don’t elect responsible leaders? Who will help us care for our children and elders who may live off reservation? Who will help stand with us to retain our sovereignty and our treaty rights?

Mitt Romney said, "There are 47 percent who are with him (Obama), who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."

Native America, we are the 47 percent. We are entitled through our treaties, many signed under duress, entitled to health care, food, housing, education, hunting and fishing rights, etc. Frankly, I believe that every American is entitled to food, shelter and medicine and I wonder why anyone would believe otherwise.

As we near the anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre and put the election behind us, please remember what these leaders promise you. Remember all the broken promises and broken treaties behind and beside and in front of us.

Remember that our people gave their lives so we could still be here and vote. Vote for your ancestors, vote for your people, vote for your community. Do it for the seventh generation. Protect all our people, not just your own. Thank you, that is all I have to say.

Renée Roman Nose is an activist, actress, Mother, poet, artist, comedian, anthropologist, and freelance writer who currently works for Northwest Indian College as an extension site manager for the Tulalip reservation site. She has appeared in films such as Cupcakes (2012), a short by Longhouse Media; an Indian Health Service production, Native It’s Your Game (2012) and Matt McCormick’s independent film, Some Days Are Better Than Others (2010).

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lizmariani's picture
Thank you for this. I look forward to your next article and I'd love to read your poetry.
tmsyr11's picture
Plainly visible for every=one to see the differences in the degree of ‘bi-partisanship’ over the past 2-3 years of Democratic stewardship of Indian Affairs. The HEARTH act was ‘allowed’ to past by the House (400-0) – nothing controversial about that effort. Of course the ‘OBAMA_CARE” Act (consisting of I.HS reauthorization) was passed under VERY questionable arrangements and wasn’t very well supportable. Therefore, at this POINT – the federal check is only in the mail WITH NOTHING REALLY BEING PAID OUT yet to indian health care. The responsibilities for stewardship doesn’t fall primarily to the Federal Government, but rather Tribal Nations and their ELECTABLE Tribal Governments. It is tribal citizens (electorate populations) that have to hold THEIR OWN tribal governments accountable. Why did loss of federal funding occur, $32 MILLION, occur particularly under the Navajo Nation Governments watch? What have there been consistently programming issues which impact the services and program funds of social service programs, i.e. Navajo HeadStart, Boys and Girls Club, etc? To continue to BLAME Washington, DC OR the Republican Party for lack of resources or services to Indian people is IRRESPONSIBLE of Tribal Nation Governments. I have heard too many stories of the frustrations NM Senator Pete Dominici had with Navajo officials over their lack of communication with federal officials over the needs of Navajo people. Subsequently, the Republican leadership wasn’t able to support Navajo Nation requests. It is high-time that the Indian Nation Governments CONTINUE TO TAKE OWNERSHIP to national or regional issues than to simply lie down and allow empty promises be sung as SWEET NOTHINGS. For tribal nations to hold continue to hold their breath and wait for a ‘hand-out’ from the Obama Administration and its policies....we'll indian people have no one else to blame, i.e. Mitt Romney, but them-selves. Not all of 'Native America' considers them-selves this '47-percent'. Some fall into the other '47-percent' and yet still others (like most) fall into the '5-7 percents' of undecideds.
niijii's picture
I respect your enthusiasm in this piece but you left out one critical fact. The president and those that seek that office do not have the mother earths interest in mind nor action. Coal mining, tar sand oil extraction, fracking for natural gas, climate change etc. will contine to happen affecting all human beings but overwhelmingly native people of this turtle island. Using a european metaphor, the device used to bring them here, its like choosing a captain of a ship that is rusted to the core,breaking holes in it and taking on water. All the supposed good things you have so well outlined are moot to what this govt. and its corporations have done here from their industrial age until this day. A Turtle Island that was pristine in every ecological aspect has been polluted. Earth ,air. water and everything that gives us life has been brutally attacked. Its all about the money with these powers. What have they ever done for the future generations. One small example is what they did to the Kanawake and Akwesasne communties waterways. The Sand Creek Massacre was one of many against native people. The great Massacre of Mother Earth continues unabated. What political answer do you have for that fact. Because of these facts I withhold my vote I really don't see the point.