Jill Biden, tribal leaders highlight importance of tribal votes and issues during inaugural Arizona Talking Circle
Biden for President
Friday, Jill Biden joined Navajo Nation First Lady Phefelia Nez and Native Women for Biden for the inaugural “Talking Circle” — a new organizing space for Native women to come together and discuss a range of issues impacting tribal communities.
Together, alongside Arizona State Senators Sally Ann Gonzales and Jamescita Peshlakai, San Carlos Apache Nation youth activist Naelyn Pike, and Biden for President Tribal Engagement Director Clara Pratte, they gave insight into the unique challenges the Native community has faced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the ongoing problems of missing and murdered Indigenous women, environmental justice, and the inclusion of Native women’s voices in critical issues.
“Joe Biden stands with Indian Country,” said Jill Biden. “He has worked for years to strengthen tribal sovereignty and ensure the United States follows through on its commitments to indigenous peoples. And, he knows that upholding the tribal trust and treaty responsibility is a solemn obligation of the federal government. We should be actively working to empower you with the resources you need. That’s why Joe will ensure that tribal nations have a strong voice in the White House and across our federal government.”
“The COVID pandemic really just unveiled the true needs [of our community], because of the public health concerns that have set in here. And just being in the role of First Lady, I see just how health and resources coming from the federal government were nonexistent from the beginning,” said First Lady of the Navajo Nation Phefelia Nez. “For the president of a whole country to say that he wasn’t worried about the pandemic was very concerning. The supplies and help never came from the federal government, not even when the CARES Act was passed. We had to sue to even get the funding we needed from the federal government.”
“I don’t like to call myself a politician. I'm a policy maker and changer. I have been in this role for over 25 years, and there have not been leaders that are really listening to our indigidous people,” said former State Senator Sally Ann Gonzales. “We are in dire need of Joe and people like Joe who are going to listen to us, and who are going to change policy to make our lives better for our children.”
“Out of all the Native American populations, we are at 12% per capita that serve in the U.S. military, and that's the highest out of any population ethic group in the U.S. And we do that because we are the first peoples and this is our holy land, and all of the U.S. and the Americas are first and foremost indigenous land,” said State Senator Jamescita Peshlakai. “We are the foremost protectors of our homelands and I always say that our Native American warriors are the patriotic core of the military and all communities.”
“[Education is] having the understanding and the right mindset to know that Native people are different, that they are unique, and we have our own issues, and the systematic racism that we face every single day, whether that's from what my grandmother faced to what my mother faced, to what I’m facing today. And it's breaking those different cycles — and that's the thing that young people know today and understand, is that we have to see the true history, we have to acknowledge what we are facing and the differences we are facing, and unify that together,” said San Carlos Apache Nation youth activist Naelyn Pike. “And having that is by voting, and using that vote to vote, to vote for Joe Biden.”
“Every Native vote truely counts. So it's really important we get out the Native vote and talk about why votes are important,” said Biden for President Tribal Engagement Director Clara Pratte. “What we know from the latest data is that 34% of our eligible population is not registered to vote. And what that means in real numbers is 1.2 million votes — and 1.2 million voices — are potentially going unheard.”