Saturday, June 19, 2021

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West River Eagle Editorial Board: Why we vote

The choice to exercise the right to vote is more complex than it might at first seem. In the politically fraught climate of 2020 and in the cultural context of a large Native American population there are forces pulling people to vote and forces pushing people not to vote.

The West River Eagle urges you to exercise your right to vote in the coming days.

Election Day is November 3 but early voting is already underway.

There are three voting locations open all this week. Early voting is taking place for Dewey County at the satellite location at the Eagle Butte Volunteer Fire Department and at the County Auditor’s office in the Court House in Timber Lake. For Ziebach County early voting is happening at the County Auditor’s office in the Court House in Dupree. Tribal Transit will take voters to early voting locations.

While voting may seem like a small thing, the simple act carries deep importance. First off, casting a vote shows a connection to your community. Our votes connect us to our local communities in our families and towns and to our wider communities in our tribes, state and nation. Voting also reaches across time and space to connect us to those who came before and those who will come after.

By using your vote you reach back to honor those who came before. Anyone who is part of a marginalized community – which is all of us who are not white American men – walks in the footsteps of someone who forged a path to win the right to vote for us. Women, Native people, those who do not own property, those who cannot read or write. All of us. When we vote we amplify the voices of those who came before.

By using your vote you reach forward to speak to those who will come after. It’s a simple and concrete way to communicate the hopes, dreams and intentions of the present to our children and grandchildren. Those who came before did this for us and we need to do it for the children of the next generations. When we vote we project our voices forward to those who will come after.

America is on a path of division right now. The current political system and those who benefit from it are doing their best to further divide us along the lines of our marginalization; by tribe and ethnicity, rich and poor, urban and rural, religion and tradition, gender expression, education, political spectrum.

The single most important thing we can do to express our solidarity is to vote!

If you want to protect and grown tribal sovereignty – VOTE. If you want to expand protections for water and mineral rights – VOTE. If you want to protect women and girls – VOTE. If you want to hold public officials accountable – VOTE. If you want leaders who speak for you and your family – VOTE. If you want to honor veterans – VOTE. If you think we can do better – VOTE. If you think the system is worthless – VOTE. If you think democracy is crumbling – VOTE. If you feel alienated in any way – VOTE.

I stood in line for over an hour yesterday to exercise my right to vote. The people in line with me were from every part of the community. As I looked at all of us gathered to do this simple thing, I was struck by the beauty of the moment. Every single person is allowed to vote. You do not need to do anything to qualify except be a person. (You do have to register!)

The lovely thing about it was how supportive everyone was of each other. There was a sense of the sacred about the moment. No one in line talked politics. We were there to use our power. All the politicking was over, all the arguing done. Everyone’s mind was made up. And in that moment there was nothing but support for each other and recognition of each other as neighbors. This was very different from the hatred and vilification of the last four years.

Please use your vote! If you need any assistance to get to a polling location reach out to Dew Bad Warrior at 605-365-6095. To check your registration and find your polling place go to

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