During the November election, Native American voters helped turn states like Arizona and Wisconsin blue with a record turnout.
For some Native American students at UNM, this was their first time exercising their right to have a voice in the democratic process.
“Yes, this was my first time voting,” Orion Martinez, a Navajo student and psychology major, said. “I am going to vote again because I realized how much power we have in contributing to our future, as well as for all younger generations who are not yet able to vote.”
This year, Indigenous and Native American voters came out in numbers, and Native students believe that they are part of the reason that Joe Biden won the election.
“I think we really helped Biden win — we flipped Arizona. I had a lot of friends that voted. I thought they wouldn’t vote, but they did because of Trump,” Hannah Naljahih, a Navajo student at UNM, said. “They all kind of knew what would happen if he was still the president for another four years. I think we did a lot.”
A number of students said they voted because of the hatred and intolerance Trump stoked during his presidency.
Naljahih explained that her motivation for voting was to get Trump out of office.
“I felt called to action regarding all of the injustices and terror that has been forced upon people of color, people with affiliations to the LGBTQIA2s+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, intersex, asexual, two-spirit and more) community and the people who needed change brought from those past four years of hatred and ignorance,” Martinez said.
Despite how much Indigenous voters helped win certain states during the election, there are still concerns they will continue to be represented unfairly in national statistics.
“Based on CNN’s categorization, I believe, we were labeled as, ‘something else’ which shows the lack of care and consideration that the United States has for our people,” Martinez said. “Though we were later represented properly from other broadcasting networks, it is still not enough for us to only be given a few moments of attention.”
Most of the Indigenous students that spoke with the Daily Lobo said that their reason for voting wasn’t because they were optimistic that Biden would solve all the problems within the country.
“I believe that the majority of those who voted were greatly anti-Trump and not exactly pro-Biden,” Martinez said. “Biden does have a greater sense toward some of the problems that we are facing right now in this country, but he is not the solution to everything.”
“There are still areas in which we must continue to fight for ourselves and continue to keep our voices up. At the end of the day, we are all fighting for equal rights, equal pay, just treatment, just laws, greater contributions to our planet’s well being and a healthier environment for all of us to succeed in,” Martinez said.
Hannah John is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @yesitshannahj