We have the numbers to make a difference, but it takes all of us!
By Amikogaawbawiikwe (Adrienne M. Benjamin) Mille Lacs Band Member
We are coming upon a really important time in the country in which we truly exert our sovereignty. We as dual citizens of our tribal nations and the United States of America also carry dual duty and power. We just recently voted for some of the tribal leaders in our own communities who we each felt would carry us forward in a good way for the next four years. We now more than ever need to exercise our right to vote in the national presidential election, state elections, county elections, and local city elections.
I think this is a great time for conversation amongst family, researching important topics, and fact checking with reliable news sources. There are so many things at stake in this election that can have lasting effects in this country. Women’s rights, sovereignty, and the environment are things that are near and dear to Anishinaabeg and they are definitely things that are at stake in this election and in every election.
While we may not love everything about every candidate, we should always do our best to cast our vote for the person who is going to do more good than harm. That is a sad reality of where we are in this two-party system, but until voting outside of this becomes the norm, we must do our best diligence. We may not agree wholeheartedly on one stance of a candidate, but we can look deeper into that candidate’s stance, plans for tribal nations, and even their past voting and personal records to see if they line up with our own beliefs.
As Anishinaabeg, the love for the environment is something that comes and has always come naturally to us. The land has provided for us throughout our existence and continues to do so, from maple sugar, to the birch bark used to collect it, to the wood used for the fire to process it. Not just the land, but the environment as a whole. As we move into these technological times, it’s easy to forget the way that the trees clean our air, the animals provide us food, and the water, being our most sacred gift, houses our life-giving manoomin and ogaa. This is an important stance to consider when thinking about candidates. Who is going to protect these things? Who will choose to care about and nurture our important natural elements? As we watch fires envelop California, read about scientist after scientist screaming about the devastating effect of glacial melting, and witness hurricanes with more devastating power wreak havoc, we have to think seven generations ahead. Just because these things haven’t affected us directly here in Mille Lacs, doesn’t mean that we can’t empathize and think outside of our own box to realize the emergency. If it was our wild rice beds burning, flooded with oil, and our beloved birch and maple trees on fire, maybe we would care. We have the opportunity to prevent these potential disasters with our vote.
Local elections are just as important. We have the numbers in Mille Lacs County to make a difference and to make change at the top by shifting policy, but it takes ALL of us. This year, we have an Anishinaabe candidate on the ballot for a County Commissioner position. This is an opportunity for an Anishinaabe voice on a governing body that has repeatedly over the years challenged the sovereignty of the Mille Lacs Band. While he may get outvoted on matters once he is seated, think of the changed landscape of conversations that would emerge from that one person and their viewpoint being heard in meetings talking about the Band. It would be substantial and maybe…just maybe… change some minds.
It is honestly hard to write this article and to try and keep it as unbiased as possible. As much as I believe in certain things, I without a doubt believe in the right of every individual to have their own opinion, to voice it, to constructively have conversations about topics, as that is how we grow and find common ground. However you vote this year, I hope you do it with integrity, honor, foresight, and utmost urgency. There are people within the Tribe that can help you register, give rides, and give you information on candidates for all elected positions. Your vote is your voice, and regardless of how hopeless it may feel at times in the overarching scheme of things right now with all that is going on in the world, these small things make a huge difference in the long run, and these local elections matter most when it comes to the policies and laws that affect our families every single day.
If you haven’t already… Please vote on Tuesday, November 3! Miigwech!
Do you have an opinion to share? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 320-237-6851. Band members and community members can be paid for their submissions!