May 19, 2016 - Bernie Sanders Comes to Indian Country by Allison Renville

The past few days have sure been hectic for the major cities in the Dakotas, with a quick visit to both states, after a great turnout and meeting day before in Montana. The Senator from Vermont has re-ignited a spirit of activism in many people across the Dakota Territory. With stops in Rapid City, Pine Ridge and Sioux Falls while in South Dakota. Both sides of the river were able to meet personally with the Senator and his wife Dr. Jane Sanders.

During the last few months by way of social media and the Indian country’s 2 degrees of separation, I came in contact with both of Bernie’s native staffers and started talking about what possibilities we have here in South Dakota and how our progressive community had a lot to offer. Being selected as a delegate for Bernie at the state caucus, other delegates and supporters have been readying themselves for the campaign to touch the ground and volunteering for every level of organizing and community action like phone-banking and registering voters. They have also been supporting state and local candidates who share the same mind-set and work for the people.

So when I found out that he was coming, after months of hypothetical planning, we did our best to represent our culture and our people the best we could. With a performance that included tribal members from multiple Oceti Sakowin Bands of Dakota, and speech from myself that opened the Sioux Falls rally.  Showcasing our culture with a mini grand entry and flag song by the Tiospa Zina Tribal School singers and The Great Plains Dance Company. Lead by the SWO Desert Era Veterans, the entire performance was able to come together beautifully and although it was only with 48 hours the only hard part was having to choose who could take part. All topped off with a gift of traditionally prepared Dakota style hanpas (moccasins) made by Walter “Super” LaBatte, a star-quilt and braid of sweet grass for prayer.

With the Senators vow to take on the establishment and understanding of our issues, I personally believe that he taps into the inner governmental turmoil and corruption many tribes have nationwide. Giving natives the platform to not only feel comfortable standing up for Bernie, but to stand up for themselves. Being able to sit down with him during the clutch reception before the event was enlightening, he was already well aware of the potential asset the Dakotas can be in the renewable energy field with our many season of high winds and open prairies where solar panels and windmills could be used to generate power for the entire nation. Helping restore our chances of preservation for the generations to come, ensuring all of us in that room as well as others that he will do everything he can to protect our land and people from further damage done by the oil boom.

With the influx of over 3000 registered democrats in just South Dakota since the last election alone, the voter participation has skyrocketed leading up to this primary season. With North Dakota ready to hit the caucus events statewide, we have seen states with huge native population, like Washington and Wisconsin, turn up at the polls and really make the difference. The youth have had a major increase in registration as well, and women of all ages have made major dents in the party’s numbers. With an assumption that minorities, young voters and women don’t feel the importance of voting. These 3 demographics showing up to the polls have the potential to swing the vote towards Sanders, sending his delegates, like myself, to the convention.

An event already assumed to be that of monumental milestones in the charge to take back control from big corporations and money. The main focus of getting natives to vote for myself, is the point that if you’re not exercising your right to vote, a lot of the activism can go without action. If natives take the time to get involved, register your friends, rally together and show up to the polls, not only are we securing our best interests we are securing the interests of future generations. We are all active on our issues that are important to us, but passive to how important voting actually is. Just like taking part in the census, being counted in the general populous is the most effective way to advocate for yourself. By showing turning out to vote we not only show the government we are alive and well, we break stereotypes of ineptitude that allows others to speak for us.

WE have a chance to take part in the biggest political revolution, even bigger than our parents’ “Ihanna” stories, and need to get involved.  Visit your local auditor’s offices, and state websites or reach out to any one of the many volunteers to help you get the information you need to ensure you’re properly in the system and ready to vote. It is so easy to confirm everything and find polling places, we can avoid the confusion and suppression many have faced across the country if we participate together. This is your chance, don’t let anyone tell you or make you feel like it doesn’t matter because I’m here to tell you that it does. If we stand up together; natives, woman, students and young voters, we can make the difference they’re afraid of. We can do this! Akhíptaŋ déchuŋk’uŋpi,  Miyé šni, uŋkíyepi #WeAreInThisTogether #UsNotMe

Last Real Indians