Casting the Indigenous vote in New Hampshire primary
Concord, N.H. — All eyes were on New Hampshire as the Democratic candidates traveled across the Granite State making their final plea to voters, offering change, new ideas, and engaging in conversations about race and diversity.
However, according to Paul Pouliot, council chief and speaker of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook Abenaki People, one voice that has not gotten attention from the Democratic candidates during their stay in New Hampshire is the Indigenous voice.
Pouliot says the Abenaki are fighting for tribal acknowledgement in order to move New Hampshire forward on issues important to Native communities like the use of Native mascots and changing Columbus Day into Indigenous People’s Day.
“We are fighting that deep colonial racism that is still here, that is what we are fighting,” Pouliot said. New Hampshire is 93.4 percent white, according to the 2017 American Community Survey.
Pouliot wants people to know that there are Indigenous people in New Hampshire and these voices need to be heard, and it isn’t just Abenak voices, but the voices of other Indigenous tribes that call New Hampshire home.
“Our Indigenous issues go beyond just us, the original inhabitants (of New Hampshire), it’s not just about the Abenaki that is still here,” Pouliot said.
Pouliot said he was surprised that not many Democratic Candidates came to speak with the Abenaki compared to past elections.
“None of the candidates say they would really support anything here, too small a voice is what I guess it comes down to,” Pouliot said.
Representative Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo and D-New Mexico, did stop in New Hampshire this past weekend as the first Native American women co-chair on a presidential campaign for Senator Elizabeth Warren. Haaland spent part of her weekend visiting Indigenous communities in New Hampshire on Senator Warren's behalf including visiting Dartmouth's Native American Program and meeting with the Abenaki tribe.
Onaleece Colegrove, co-president of Native Americans at Dartmouth Program, says after a visit from Representative Haaland she is conflicted on who to vote for in the New Hampshire primary with less than 24 hours before the polls open.
“I don’t know I am kind of torn just because Elizabeth Warren has a clearer plan of what needs to be done (in our Native communities) and how to do it, while Bernie just addresses it and knows it’s an issue,” said Colegrove, a citizen of the Hoopa Valley Tribe in California.
Colegrove says despite Warrens controversial past, Warren has a comprehensive plan that not only addresses Native issues in Colegrove’s home community but is a plan that could help all Indigenous communities.
“I grew up on a reservation in California, so a lot of my life has been centered around being around with in my own Indigenous community, and that matters that affect Indian country broadly, affect my community as well,” Colegrove said.
Colegrove says this primary she is taking a stance as a Native voter by voting for the candidate that will listen to and make a difference in Indian Country.
“It’s not whether you agree with one side or the other on where they stand on broader issues, it’s kind of like where they stand on Indian affairs issues which is something I also come to value,” Colegrove said.
Scarlett Lisjak, Haudenosaunee, member of the Onondaga Nation, Heron Clan, is a Broadcast and Digital Journalism Graduate Student at Syracuse University's S.I Newhouse School of Public Communications where she produces content as a multimedia journalist. Scarlett has her bachelors from Syracuse University in Political Science and Psychology.