'Get to the polls,' say Little Cheiis

Indian Country Today

On today's show is Antonio Ramirez, co-creator of Little Cheiis discussing their new election video, followed by Indian Country Today reporter Aliyah Chavez covering how one man finds therapy through cycling

It began when two young Native men began to record videos about Native history, news, and culture. They named themselves Little Cheiis, which is a Navajo word for grandpa. And since they are grandpas in training, they use the word little. Antonio Ramirez, a co-creator for Little Cheiis joins us to talk about one of their videos that's getting more traction this election season.

And in our Reporter Talkback, our own reporter producer Aliyah Chavez shares a story about former NBA phenom Damen Bell-Holter and his movement Break the (BI) Cycle. He's raising money and awareness about the dearth of mental health care for Black and Indigenous men.

Some quotes from Antonio Ramirez:

"So I think it's not just this election, but every election. In general, getting out to the polls, getting politically active, knowing what's on your ballot. That's very important for us. And we've said that two years ago was the first time I saw somebody elected to Congress who looked like my family. That was just incredible. I think that the more that we can get Native Americans out ready to vote, the more that we're going to see that in the future."

"It's not just encouraging my friends, but also my family. I have a lot of family members who aren't registered. I think just asking people and starting that conversation is so simple and it means so much more when it comes from somebody that's close to you. As opposed to a stranger, who's sending you a text or knocking on your door, not during COVID season this year, but in general. So really starting from the community base and then working out, I think is essential. And with our videos, that's what we're really trying to do is get people to ask others that they know and that they care about and get them to the polls."

"The video we released a week ago is about the history of voting in Arizona. In particular, the case of Frank Harrison. A lot of people don't know this history because we weren't taught about it in school. The video really goes in depth. It talks about the opinions from the attorney general in 1924 and how that changed within the span of four years with the case of Peter Porter who tried to register to vote in central Arizona. The argument that the state of Arizona had was that Native Americans were under guardianship by the federal government. And because of that, they weren't able to vote. And it's just infuriating because in that clause in the state constitution, it says that those who are under guardianship, or who are insane, are not allowed to vote. To categorize all Native Americans like that, because we are considered wards of the federal government was just ridiculous."

"We've been able to get a grant with Instituto and it's been really phenomenal. I think it's so important to continue supporting Native artists and Natives who want to go out and create. In the future that's something that we really want to do. Then in that way we can help bring these ideas that are maybe a little bit obscure or these historical facts that people don't know about. Or these policies that people are confused about. We can bring them to light to show people that this is what it looks like. So future videos down the road, we want to talk about what allotment is, what termination was. And these historical injustices that have been continually perpetuated. When we say a word like injustice, it's important when we give the actual data or we give the facts behind it and help flesh out these stories, then I think that has a lot more weight. So that's what we're looking forward to."

Here are some comments from Aliyah Chavez:

"This was such a fun story to report. Damen Bell-Holter is a former professional basketball player turned avid cyclist. In March he hopped on a bike and went for a ride and said that it was incredibly therapeutic for him. He'd had recently been looking for ways to seek therapy and had tried to see a therapist but mentioned that it just didn't really work out for him. Damen Bell-Holter is Indigenous and also black. He mentioned that in therapy, the therapist just really couldn't sit down and talk about the historical traumas of colonization and slavery. So apparently riding his bike did the trick and it felt like therapy for him. So he kept on going."

"Damen and a group of other cyclists biked more than 800 miles over the course of 16 days. They began on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming and ended in the Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico. They camped the whole way and every single day after biking, they would camp and wake up and do it again. The other part of the trip that was special was that they encouraged anyone who either wanted to show support or any Indigenous or Black men who wanted to join them. They said, you know, come find us here's our route. At one point they had about 15 writers with them, which they seemed very excited about."

"Bell-Holter said after resting, he was going to think about how to get the youth involved. I asked him if there would there be another ride in the future. And he said, definitely. He just really needed to get some rest. It sounds like, sort of planning this a little bit more. He had actually initially planned for a ride all the way from Vancouver to San Diego. But as many of us know there are wildfires ranging along the California coast and the smoke just wasn't healthy for them. So they altered their route. But it sounds like upcoming plans would include another ride and also other ways to get youth involved as well."

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. She is also the anchor of the weekday newscast. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider.

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