On Indigenous People’s Day, MAP Celebrates a New Generation of Native Legislators
October 8, 2020
On Monday, October 12th, millions of people will come together to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day. This day will be a celebration of the incredible diversity of Indigenous cultures and peoples within the United States, while also calling to attention the historic persecution of Indigenous Americans in their own homeland. At the Millennial Action Project (MAP), we will celebrate the great strides made by Indigenous legislators who have worked tirelessly to bring desperately needed representation to their communities.
Like many other people of color in the United States, Indigenous peoples historically faced exclusion from electoral politics, at all levels of government. During the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, there emerged a parallel Native American Civil Rights movement, led by organizations such as the American Indian Movement (AIM). It was through the courageous actions of Native American activists that legislation such as the Indian Civil Rights Act in 1968 and the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act in 1975. Combined with greater civil rights legislation such as the Voting Rights Act, there has been slow but steady progress in electing more Indigenous peoples to public office..
Of the four members of the House of Representatives who claim Native descent, two are also Millennials: our Congressional Future Caucus member Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Representative Sharice Davids (D-KS). Even greater representation can be found at the state level, with the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators (NCNASL). Boasting a membership of 81 legislators from 21 states, a substantial number of whom are also Millennials.
There are a number of examples that demonstrate the successes Indigenous Millennial legislators have had. In Alaska, State Representative Tiffany Zulkosky was the main author of a bipartisan state bill that supports Savanna’s Act, which calls attention to the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women. In New Mexico, State Representative Derrick J. Lente authored a bill in 2019 that creates a systemic framework for assisting majority-Native school districts. And in Oklahoma, our Oklahoma Future Caucus co-chair Representative Ajay Pittman currently serves as the vice-chair of the Health and Human Services Committee of the NCNASL.
These achievements are merely a small slice of the work that has been accomplished by Indigenous lawmakers. Yet, there remains much progress to be made. Indigenous communities continue to face a number of challenges relating to poverty, crime, and other inequalities. This is a time for federal and state legislators to stand up and listen to the bipartisan voices of Indigenous legislators, and in particular millennial Indigenous legislators, as they call attention to their communities.
From everyone at MAP, we would like to wish a Happy Indigenous People’s Day!
By: Sam Sherwood, Intern at the Millennial Action Project
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