By Winona LaDuke
Make America beautiful again. That’s what I say. I remember those old advertisements of the Indian guy in the canoe, tear and all. And there was all this pollution, burning rivers and garbage. Ugly. I want it beautiful again. But it’s not just environmental beauty, no more smokey skies or poisoned rivers, we want beautiful character and ethics in our society and in our government. I want leaders who are not self serving, lying, or serving foreign companies and countries, we want them to take care of the little people, those who need champions. In other words, we want to be decent people. We want to not have hatred, walls, and fear. I plan to be part of making America beautiful again.
I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. I ran two times for the office of Vice President of the United States as a Green Party candidate. That means I don’t really have a dog in this fight, neither of those parties likes a woman like me. But this year, I am weighing in. And I am weighing in on the side of decency and for a return to a democratic process. I’m voting for a world with less conflict, youth in detention camps, gutted environmental and civil rights protections, less hatred, no vote stealing, and fewer forest fires.
First, I am going to ask people to vote. We know that voting makes a difference because this last mid term, Peggy Flanagan (Ojibwe) was elected to the position of Minnesota Lieutenant governor. We know voting makes a difference, because a young Puerto Rican woman named Alexandria Ocasio Cortez unseated a seven term New York City Politician Joseph Crowley to become a US Representative. The other side had the money, but people mobilized to turn over power. Her vision and ethics, combined with allies like Deb Haaland, from New Mexico, Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar are changing this country. They are leading the country and challenging business as usual in Washington DC. Now is the time for solutions, and those are not going to come from the folks who got us into this mess. The solutions and a “ Moonshot” for a better world, of a new economy are visionary. That’s what happens when people vote and organize. Minnesota had the highest turnout in the mid term elections, and we need to do it again.
About 700 young people became eligible to vote on the White Earth reservation for this election – and November 3 is about your future. It is about what jobs there will be, if we will have our wild rice, if we will be in ongoing crises of climate, police, riots and opioids. It is about ensuring justice, and about having enough for our communities – heat, food, and health. This is a vote during a pandemic, a vote when the world is changing, and we are the country with more cases of COVID than any in the world. This vote is about the future of our country, our water and our people.
How to Vote
If you have an absentee ballot, you can send it in, and you should. Check your mailbox every day. And do it! Because your vote counts, and you don’t want to lose chance to vote for future generations.
Vote and register in person: Early voting is open now, and you can vote at your county court house any time during business hours. If you can vote early, that will likely help protect your voting rights. You can register to vote in Minnesota the day that you vote. You will need a formal identification – a drivers license or tribal ID, that has a valid physical address. However, if your tribal ID has a PO Box, bring with you proof of residency indicating housing address / location (it can be a bill of some sort or housing papers).
If you vote on the White Earth reservation you can vote in your township hall, and get a ride there, or it’s possible that the White Earth tribe will be able to provide polls for voting in the usual places of tribal elections. The White Earth tribe is working on a pop up voting station with the MN Secretary of State. This will be 7-days starting before election day on November 3rd. That’s pretty important, because of a new COVID season, and because people have a right to vote.
Visit IWillVote.com to learn more about registration, register online, absentee ballot requests, early voting and protection laws. It is important you know your rights, and this is a good source Peggy Flanagan promotes. So let’s get out there and Vote! Bring your relatives, and friends.
Vote because there are Native people running for senate, house , city councils and county commissioner positions in Minnesota. And those people can bring a Native voice to the state. And yet some of those native people, despite being tribal members do not always represent Native interests. So maybe let’s vote on records and merits. Let’s remember that change can happen. It’s inevitable. It’s a question of who controls the change. A surge in Native voting will change the political landscape of the North.
Vote because it matters what kinds of leaders we have. In September, Donald Trump’s tax returns became public, and we found out that he paid $750 in federal income taxes. And he spent $70,000 on hair styling and deducted it from his taxes. In the meantime, millions of people are facing evictions, loss of jobs, and incredible despair, struggling to pay bills.
There are over 205,000 people dead from COVID as a result of bad leadership, the economy is in ongoing crisis, there are riots in the streets, people getting shot and the west coast is on fire. And Trump has threatened that a transition may not happen.
That’s a crisis. In Northern Minnesota, crisis grows as well. We have an opioid crisis, we have a rise in hateful behavior, we have polarized communities, and winter is coming. We are faced with the end of Wiindigo economics, the mines have run out of ore, except for a few pebbles, and the tar sands are collapsing. Enbridge is hiring security forces and promising to bring in more militarization for a pipeline project which has been opposed by the Native people and 68,000 Minnesotans, as well as the Department of Commerce and the Attorney General of the State. This is a pipeline to nowhere. Sadly, many Democratic and tribal politicians lack courage, and are not against the pipeline, only David Suby running for House 2B, against Steve Green opposes Line 3.
In comparison, Steve Green, a tribal member is pro pipeline, and has opposed return of land to the White Earth tribe. Green tells us he “is addressing the nation’s energy issues by supporting the drilling of domestic oil, clean burning of coal and nuclear energy.”
Senator Paul Utke has been in office since 2017, and has introduced 14 bills for the Native community, of which one passed. He is also pro Line 3, while our tribe has opposed the pipeline. That’s at a time when the oil industry is dying and renewable energy is surging.
To have a Canadian corporation dictate and influence politics in the US is a problem. The guns they bring will also be a problem. Hatred is ugly. While tribal governments wield significant economic power, politicians do not always pass bills for the benefit of tribes.
Our tribe has spoken and demands clean water and wild rice for the future.
Some of us want peace, security and prosperity. That’s the vision of the Green New Deal. That’s the vision of renewable energy, healthcare for all, small farmers, funded education, organic agriculture, and justice. That’s the vision that needs to be here in northern Minnesota- solutions, not more problems. That’s a wave which is moving nationally, and can really change the course of our history. I say ride that wave.
The forces at work in the north country are deep and every vote counts. Trump did not come to Bemidji Minnesota to campaign just to see people with “good genes”. He came because what is happening here matters. It matters to our future generations that we care for them being healthy and protecting the world for them. This is vision which is part of the Green New Deal, Just Transition, and needs to come to what we call the Deep North.
After all, Trump came to the Deep north because of the long history of Indian hating, and the desperation of the end of the road for late stage capitalism – even the United Nations says that the kind of economics practiced by Enbridge, and RDO Offutt are not sustainable.
This is a time of incredible change and transformation. Statues of confederates and conquistadors are falling and we are in the midst of a global pandemic. There is no return to normal, so let’s make this world beautiful. We can be part of the change by voting for courageous and decent people. And this is a chance to vote for the Good life, to vote to be beautiful. That’s what we can do on November 3.