By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
Some think that one vote won’t make a difference. If you think that way, the way of the ostrich with his head in the sand, then you deserve the representation you receive. By the same token, if you are willing to sell your vote for a tank of gas, bag of road salt or the price a month’s electricity, then you will also get the kind of representation that you deserve, which are representatives willing to sell themselves to the highest bidder and who looking out for their self-interests and not for you and yours.
I am reminded of a sheriff in a nearby county who, many years ago, would secure a van and go find alcoholics who would be given a bottle of cheap wine and taken to the voting booths to cast a vote for the friendly sheriff. As the story goes, the town mayor of the county seat was just as accommodating to the wine-loving segment of the community. We sometimes trade in our future so that today’s want or need may be satisfied. In doing so, we relegate our lives and the lives of our children to a “living hand-to-mouth” existence.
We are a couple of months away from electing local, state and federal offices, up to and including a president for the United States. Do you know who is running for what in your local and state elections? Are you aware that North Carolina will be voting for a governor in November?
We sometimes take our freedom too much for granted. We think that whatever happens in those elections, our lives will not be different and, even if it does make changes in our lives, there is not much we can do about it.
Some folks abstain from voting in elections outside the Tribe as a form of protest against recognizing any form of government other than the tribal government. Regardless of how we feel about other governments, we have to live under some of their constraints. It is shortsighted to not use the right of voting in protest.
Use your vote to change what is encumbering your life and lifestyle. How can your voice be heard if you don’t use the only form of speech that government understands? Do you want less control from outside the Tribe? You must vote in officials who will respect the concept of tribal sovereignty and uphold the treaties that protect it. Do you want protections in place for land, air, water and environment? Go to the polls and elect people who care about natural resources, green energy, recycling and wildlife protection. From health care to homesteads, we seek either assistance or freedom from our government and the governments of the U.S. Doesn’t it make sense to have whatever influence we can in getting the most out of those relationships?
In the 2010 U.S. Census, 5.2 million people in the United States identified themselves as Native American. Even allowing for removal of those not of voting age, those are some potentially loud voices in local, state and federal elections. The Native vote is important and, as the slogan states, the “Native Vote Counts!” It is worth your time and important to the Native community that you do your homework and be involved in the election process. You have a right to ask questions of politicians. After all they are vying for positions of service to you.
And, next month will mark the beginning of the midterm election season for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. It is even more critical for us to seek answers from those who are currently in office who will be running for re-election and those who will be candidates for those seats what their vision for your future is. A year will go by quickly. To put it in proper perspective, there are only 12 Tribal Council sessions left before a newly-elected Tribal Council will be seated. Important issues are on the table from health care, housing and child/elder care to economic development initiatives, gaming revenue protection and intergovernmental relations. Education, experience and ethics of those you consider for leadership should be carefully scrutinized. Just as in the outside elections, we must be sure that the focus and agendas of the candidate or candidates is on the people and communities that they serve.
Whether it is outside elections or those we hold as a Tribe, don’t underestimate the power of your vote. Be active and informed…and go to the polls.