Blog News: An Important Update to a Recent Blog Post

Today, I am doing two unprecedented things: writing a blog news post on a Wednesday (not a Friday) and announcing an update to a blog post.

But why?

As readers know, I published a piece on the barriers that many Native Americans face to voting in the United States just over a week ago. I felt it was a relevant post given the upcoming election, discussions about voter suppression in this country, and the proximity to Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

But I had no idea that this post would be so relevant that I find myself updating the piece I wrote.

Yet, that was exactly what happened. What happened was that I found out just yesterday that North Dakota enacted (and the Supreme Court did nothing to remove) a voter ID law that will provide yet another barrier to voting for some Native Americans in the state.

As to the full details on what that additional barrier is, please read the end of my modified blog post (the one that was originally published last week) for more details. To make it easy to see what I added (and to make it easy for those who have read the post and don’t want to read it a second time), I put my update in bold.

So, without further adieu, here is the link to the updated blog post on “Native American Barriers to Voting”: https://blindinjusticeblog.com/2018/10/09/native-american-barriers-to-voting/

Native American Barriers to Voting

As per usual, while I take many holiday weeks off, I am not taking Columbus Day off. If you’re wondering why, just read this post from the week of Columbus Day last year.

However, from this year on, I’m not just going to post on the week of Columbus Day, but also to post on one or more issues related to indigenous people (since, you know, that was the group most hurt by Columbus and others coming).

At this point, you’re probably asking this: “What are you going to post this year, Brendan?”

This year, given the upcoming midterm election, I think it’s important to write a post about an injustice many of us are not aware of: the fact that many Native Americans face barriers to voting.

It may be surprising to hear that many Native Americans face barriers to voting, especially considering the fact that Native Americans technically have the right to vote. However, just because a group of people has the right to vote doesn’t mean that they are given the resources to vote easily.

Take, for example, the barriers to voting that many Native Americans face in elections. The quantity of barriers stated by a Chicago Tribune article on the topic was staggering: long distances to voting places, less time for early voting than other groups, restrictive voter-identification regulations, a lack of accommodations for tribal languages at polling places, and many more. The Native American Voting Rights Coalition listed further voting barriers faced by Native Americans in several states, such as registration problems caused by non-traditional addresses, a lack of voter-registration drives in Native American communities, and a lack of Internet access (which makes online voter registration impossible in practice even if it exists in theory). There are even more barriers that Native Americans face to voting, but these are just a few.

If your head is spinning at this point from the massive list of voting restrictions that Native Americans face, don’t feel badly—honestly, I felt that way, too, while drafting this post. If anything, be glad that you’re recognizing the extent of voting restrictions against Native Americans in 2018.

However, we must go further, as individuals, than simply recognizing how the system is stacked against Native Americans, as far as voting is concerned. Instead, we must consider what, if anything, our candidates say about voting rights for all individuals, including Native Americans. While I will not be one to endorse candidates on this blog, what I will say is that anyone who does not support the further enfranchisement of all individuals at the voting booth, including the enfranchisement of Native Americans, does not deserve anyone’s vote.

Update as of October 16, 2018: For the first time ever, I needed to update a blog post soon after writing one. That is because yet another barrier has been added for some Native Americans. Namely, for people in North Dakota, you must have an ID with a current street address in order to vote. P.O. boxes are not acceptable. This disproportionately affects Native Americans, as many Native American reservations lack physical street addresses (plus many homeless Native Americans use P.O. boxes, not physical street addresses). Therefore, North Dakota has created, and the Supreme Court has refused to do anything about, yet another barrier to voting that Native Americans in that state will face. I want to give a “thank you” to Scottie at Scotties Toy Box for bringing my attention to this issue, and to National Public Radio’s article on the topic and many others for reporting on this.

Native American History is Erased from School Curricula

One thing that many of us might not be aware of is that November is Native American History Month.

Another thing many of us may not be aware of is that Native American history is often barely present, absent, or extremely misleading in school curricula.

For example, the College Board’s curriculum for Advanced Placement (AP) United States History mentioned Native Americans only once in a post-1890 context: as a subdivision of a key concept which says students should learn about how “Latino, American Indian, and Asian American movements continued to demand social and economic equality and a redress of past injustices” (quote found on page 87 of this link). To which I think, “Umm…excuse me…what do you think happened with Native Americans between 1890 and the civil rights era?” I’m not sure if I’d get answers even if I asked the College Board.

My home state of New York is somewhat better about including Native Americans in its history curriculum. For example, New York includes Native American movements on the list of civil rights movements that need to be covered. Regarding the era of World War II, the curriculum says: “Students will examine the contributions of women, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Mexican workers, and Mexican Americans to the war effort, as well as the discrimination that they experienced in the military and workforce.” The curriculum also makes room for key legislation on Native Americans, such as the Dawes Act, and forced assimilation efforts, such as the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. However, unless the quality of textbooks has changed since my younger brother went through United States History in New York two years ago, much of the information on these topics is misleading at best, and promoting falsehoods at worst.

And some of that misleading information is expressed when California talks about Native Americans and civil rights. At one point, the post-World War II chapter in their curriculum says: “American Indians also became more aware of the inequality of their treatment in many states where Indian tribes are located. American Indian veterans, returning from World War II were no longer willing to be denied the right to vote by the states, which controlled the voting sites or to be told their children could not attend state public schools” (in this link; search for my quote to find the link most easily). Say what? They just said that there was little awareness among Native Americans about their lack of rights before the 1940s? That comment left me puzzled, to say the least.

I can give more examples of how states poorly handle Native American issues beyond the 1870s or so, but I think that these three examples give enough of a picture. The bottom line is that Native Americans are often either erased or are depicted with misleading information in many portions of school curricula. That fact is shameful.

It is often said that “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Many high school curricula don’t even teach the history of Native Americans beyond the 1870s (let alone teach it properly), so if we are to avoid repeating mistakes, we must start to educate ourselves. I have much to educate myself on, and many of us have much to educate ourselves on, but we must educate ourselves so that we don’t repeat the mistakes and injustices committed against Native Americans in the past.