A number of complex questions arise when it comes to elections and Indigenous Peoples. Disenfranchisement has taken different forms for different groups in this country. It has also had different historical roots, settler-colonial, social, political roots and legal/constitutional roots. Keeping in mind historical, socio-political and legal factors, what are the most critical contextual problems for each of these sectors for participation of Native Americans in elections? How is the fundamental right of equality and non-discrimination challenged in elections in this country? We often say that the quality of a democracy depends on how it treats minorities and Indigenous Peoples: what types of reforms would it take for a climate of confidence to be fostered in America that would encourage electoral participation? What can we learn from the struggles of movements and campaigns that got Native Americans elected, including in recent times? How are the individual and collective rights of Indigenous Peoples linked to participation in elections? How have the mobilizations around Standing Rock and Black Lives Matter affected the electorate in terms of meaningful participation in the elections? In a world of the expanding force of social media, fake news and hate speech, even in pandemic times, what is the role of media in the upcoming elections?
-Tatewin Means (Lakota), Executive Director, Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation
-Michael Witgen (Anishinaabe), Professor, Department of History and the Program in American Culture University of Michigan
-Janene Yazzie (Diné (Navajo)), Sustainable Development Program Coordinator, International Indian Treaty Council & Co-Convenor, Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development
Elsa Stamatopoulou, Director, Indigenous Peoples' Rights Program, Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Human Rights
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-Tatewin Means: Tatewin Means is from the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota, Oglala Lakota and Inhanktonwan nations in South Dakota. Tatewin has two children, Mankato and Persayah, and currently lives in Rapid City, SD. She has her BS in Environmental Engineering from Stanford University with a minor in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity; JD with a concentration in Human Rights Law from the University of Minnesota Law School; and MA in Lakota Leadership and Management from Oglala Lakota College.
A longtime advocate for human rights, survivors, children, and families, Tatewin Means served as the Attorney General for the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota from 2012-2017. She has also served as a German Marshall Fund Marshall Memorial Fellow in 2015. From 2017-2018, Tatewin was the Graduate Studies Department Chair at Oglala Lakota College. Currently, Tatewin is the Executive Director of Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, an Indigenous non-profit organization on the Pine Ridge Reservation, seeking to lead systemic change through the development of a regenerative community with the ultimate vision of a liberated Lakota nation through language, culture and spirituality.