Are we Still the People?

Charmayne Sam, Writer

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The Navajo or Diné meaning “the people” have been United States citizens since 1924 through an act of Congress. It wasn’t until 1957 the Native American inhabitants in the state of Utah were given the right to vote, thirty three years later.

The county commissioner and school board district lines were gerrymandered to give white voters disproportionate power for more than three decades.

Native Americans on the Navajo reservation deserve to be treated as much as any other resident in the United States, without being discriminated against.

Due to gerrymandering, Navajo voters were receiving the incorrect ballots or were not registered in the correct precincts.

In 2012 there were strict voter ID laws targeted toward Native Americans. The majority of the population on the Navajo reservation, which is 356,890, have no official street addresses or can not provided the right and/or required documents.

The commission also used tactics to intimidate potential voters, for example putting polling stations in local sheriff’s stations and off the reservation.

Another issue is not having a translator present due to most Navajo people still talk in their native language and do not understand much English.

Through the Rural Utah Project, locals Tara Benally and her 16-year-old son Delaney After Buffalo spent months educating and registering new voters on the Navajo reservation earlier this year. They’re two Navajo candidates running for commissioner office this year in San Juan county.

“It’s progress for our people. It’s just a better outlook for the people in southern San Juan County, Utah,” says Benally. “If we get those two county commissioners in office, it changes everything. It’s that important. This is something that needs to take place.”

By having a Navajo commissioner in office, it gives the native people more political power.

The Navajo people and other tribes deserve to be treated as much as any other resident in the United States, without being discriminated.

Diné has not lost it’s meaning yet.