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Carina Dominguez

Protect the Sacred and NDN Collective partnered to host the “Skate to the Polls” voter registration event on Saturday in Kayenta, Arizona.

Advocates say, amid widespread voter suppression, it’s important to host community engagement events that empower Indigenous voters in disenfranchised communities, especially young people on tribal lands.

Protect the Sacred founder Allie Young, Diné, wanted to raise awareness around voter issues in her community.

“By voting we are reclaiming our power, and that means that we're showing up collectively as a community and in solidarity with other disenfranchised BIPOC communities across the country,” Young said. “When we're represented, we're able to advocate for policies that affect our community, that impact our communities.”

The organizations seek to draw attention to the numerous hurdles that stand in the way for young people and people who live on tribal lands, who are some of the most intentionally disenfranchised communities. Some issues include infrequent polling places and post offices, a lack of mail services and limited access to the internet.

The event was an attempt to galvanize young Indigenous people on the Navajo Nation to register to vote in the midterms, update registration status and learn about how to participate in the 2022 elections.

Dozens of young people skated, in solidarity, to Kayenta Recreation Park where voting experts were onsite giving community members voter information for the state and respective counties.

Civic engagement is important now more than ever before, advocates say, because it’s a pivotal time for Indigenous voting rights, which are under attack in multiple states.

Earlier this year, ICT reported another census showed an increasingly diverse population and many experts were following redistricting closely, saying diversity is not reflected in the process.

More recently, multiple lawsuits claim Indigenous voting rights are being diminished in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Arizona – just to name a few.

That’s why “Skate to the Polls” was the first in a series of activities that will engage Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and other historically overlooked communities, the organizations say.

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"Skate to the Polls" in Kayenta, Arizona on Aug. 13, 2022. Actor Gary Farmer from Reservation Dogs made a special guest appearance. (Photo by Kyle Lieberman, Harness)

“Civic participation can be joyful. It can be fun. It is fun. We are proving it today at ‘Skate to the Polls’. The community showed up and I'm so proud. They came to celebrate our power,” Young said.

Indigenous skaters were joined by special guest actor Gary Farmer, Cayuga Nation, from “Reservation Dogs” and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez spoke at the event.

NDN Collective Political Director Lycia Maddocks, Quechan, also spoke at the event.

“NDN Collective is on the front lines shutting down pipelines and making sure that we're fighting for dollars to come back into Indigenous communities. But we're also encouraging folks to make sure that we're speaking up and voting is one way to do that,” Maddocks said.

Their goal is to encourage and facilitate participation in the upcoming midterm elections in authentic ways.

“For you young people, I just wanna let you know that I'm watching how young people's voices are deeply impacting laws and policy and education and various other things that are happening right now. And it's like, if the adults can't get it together, the young people are stepping up to make sure that it happens because y'all are fearless,” Maddocks said.

Voter information was given to community members at "Skate to the Polls" in Kayenta, Arizona. (Photo by Kyle Lieberman, Harness)

Young is managing a program to expand efforts to uplift BIPOC voices, the goal is to encourage 50,000 BIPOC to register to vote or check their registration and turn them out to vote in the midterms, according to a press release.

Young hosted the first “Ride to the Polls” event in 2020. She was inspired by her ancestors when she led 50 voters on horseback to vote in the presidential election.

“This land is ours, this water is ours, and these resources are ours. We can’t afford to sit this election out. ‘Ride to the Polls’ is designed to amplify our collective power and turn people out to vote in 2022,” Young said.

Other voter-engagement events will be hosted in the runup to midterms, including a Georgia ride targeting students, a ride partnering with Latinx organizations in Texas to hold a Quinceñera-inspired celebration bringing young first-time Latina girls to vote in trucks and limos, and an Election Day horseback ride in Arizona, and more.

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