Invisible people with visible votes

Indian Country Today

Principal Chief of the Lower Muskogee Creek Vonnie McCormick and Four Directions founder OJ Semans tell us about getting Indigenous people in Georgia out to vote. And national correspondent Joaqlin Estus provides more details on the recent Alaska landslides.

On today's show, Vonnie McCormick, principal chief of the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe, tells us about her effort to get out the vote in Georgia's special election.

And Sicangu Oyate citizen OJ Semans, founder of the nonpartisan Native voting rights group Four Directions, worked to get 100,000 eligible Native voters in Georgia to cast their ballots. He'll tell us how that went.

Plus, national correspondent Joaqlin Estus is on the show, and she has more about a string of islands near the Canadian border that were hit hard by heavy rain and strong winds.

Some quotes from today's show:

OJ Photo

OJ Semans

"We have our core team. Usually Four Directions doesn't send a whole bunch of people and we send one or two, which we did. And now we hire local individuals within the communities to actually do the organizing and stuff. So we’re covering  with dropping material off and asking if they're registered to vote or trying to help them register to vote  we're covering probably anywhere from 600 to 700 houses a day in Atlanta."

"I'm told we're in the hundreds, but I don't really have a specific number today. It just ended at midnight last night. Well, it ended that 11:59:59 p.m. last night, as far as the online registering. So we were happy with what we got, but we're not sure of the numbers right now. We have been trying to get in communication with them, but right now we're just working with Principal Chief McCormick from the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe, who is actually our person on the ground that has been reaching out not only to the other tribes, but to her own tribal members and other tribal members."

Vonnie McCormick

"Four Directions realized that there was a good number of Native Americans here in the state of Georgia. And when they were looking they saw that most of them were not registered to vote. So they contacted me and asked me about us getting together and seeing if we could get the people out to vote. So I've been working hard trying to make sure all the tribes here in the state get their people out to vote."

"But Four Directions are on the ground here. They're working in the metro area where we have a lot of people that are there. So we're trying to knock on doors, send out messages through telephone and through mail and try to get them interested and get out to vote. We're kind of considered the invisible people in the state of Georgia. And we want our voices to be heard."

Joaqlin Estus

"Well, Patty, just to give you a sense of how this compares, Las Vegas gets 4 inches of rain a year. This is on the low end. Sacramento gets 18, Houston and New Orleans get 50 to 60 inches. Seattle gets 78. Here in southeast Alaska, they get 75 to 155 inches per year. So they get a lot of rain anyway. And what happened starting last week is this big storm came in and they had record rainfall. So several towns broke records, and there was flooding. There were roads washed out. I mean, it just wreaked havoc in the area."

"The town that was hardest hit is called Haines. And people sometimes know it because if you want to drive to mainland Alaska, you can take a ferry from Bellingham, Washington, up to Haines or Skagway, get on a road, drive through Canada and get to Fairbanks, Anchorage and the Kenai peninsula. Well, that road was closed last week. And actually in Haines, the road to the airport and the road to the ferry terminal were blocked by mudslides or washed out. And what's worst is that they had this huge landslide that wiped out four houses, and two people are still missing. So for search and rescue, it was like a couple of hundred feet across and 9 feet deep. That's how deep the mud was."

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

Joaqlin Estus, Tlingit, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today. Based in Anchorage, Alaska, she is a longtime journalist. Follow her on Twitter @estus_m or email her at jestus@indiancountrytoday.com. 

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.

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