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Kalle Benallie
Indian Country Today

Apache artist Douglas Miles knows what’s at stake in the 2020 election and wants to promote Native voices.

“I believe in voting. I think voting is an important tool that Native people should not be afraid to use,” Miles said.

He was commissioned by Culture Surge, a coalition of members and organizers dedicated to civic engagement, to create the mural “You’re Voting on Native Land,” which is displayed on his homelands at the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona.

He said San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler, Vice Chairman Tao Etpison and others on the tribal council helped support the project as well.

The project was derived from a social campaign that he created in September. Miles said he wanted a bold message and for the audience to critically think about why we vote, where we are voting and who we are voting for. 

Apache artist Douglas Miles created a social campaign and “You’re Voting on Native Land” mural that is displayed on his homelands at the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. (Photo courtesy of Katie Dunham)

According to the Native Vote initiative, 1.2 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives are not registered to vote.

Miles also is a proponent of “capturing Native American reality, not romanticism, triumph, not tragedy,” according to his website. Additionally, he founded the Apache Skateboards company that celebrates Apache culture in its designs.

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“What could I say about voting that’s positive but that doesn’t scare people?” he said about thinking of the concept.

He added the “You’re Voting on Native Land” message contains multiple meanings and can be interpreted differently.

“The message really is in the text, and the text really is the message,” Miles said. “It’s a deceptively simple message.”

He has another mural, “Your Vote is Your Voice,” that is 20 feet tall and 100 feet long. It is on the same building, near a local skate park.

Miles also has a mural in Superior, Arizona, about 70 miles east of San Carlos, and said another project with Culture Surge may be for a billboard in northern Arizona.

And he is voting for “kind of like pro-Native points of view, people that respect our opinion that are not trying to silence us.” 

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Kalle Benallie, Navajo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today's Phoenix bureau. Follow her on Twitter: @kallebenallie or email her at

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