Native organization gages Native American vote
ALBUQUERQUE – Seeking the Native American voice on health care, the economy and other crucial issues, a grassroots organization hosted a statewide teleconference for Native Americans in New Mexico last week in an unprecedented event to gage the Native perspective.
The Native American Voters Alliance (NAVA) hosted discussions and polled Native Americans on the issues as an information gathering effort to better understand political thought and the voter behavior of Native Americans, who make up about 11 percent of the state's population.
Although Native Americans make up a small percentage of New Mexico's population, the Native vote has been key in local and regional political races. In the presidential election in 2000, presidential candidate Al Gore won the state by 366 votes. Five counties with a Native American-majority population majority supported Gore.
"We're working to build a better understanding of how the economy, education and other crucial issues impact our communities," NAVA Executive Director Laurie Weahkee said. "It is to our benefit to have a Native American voter who is informed and actively engaged on the issues that affect our lives. "
Based on a similar nationwide polling teleconference on the congressional budget, the NAVA, with its more than a decade of civic engagement with tribal communities, used the Internet and participants' cell phones or cell phones distributed at the event for polling and showed real-time results at each site: the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, the Center for Lifelong Education at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and the UNM Branch in Gallup. Participants at each site also had smaller discussions on the issues hosted by Native American moderator.
The information gathered will be used to aid NAVA in creating a civic agenda, which will be used as a guide to improve the quality of life for all Native Americans living in New Mexico.
"Native Americans and their relationship to power and politics is one of enormous complexity and speculation," Weahkee said. "This event seeks to contextualize the Native American the decision-making process and involvement in American society."
For more information about NAVA, go to www.nativevotersalliance.org.