BEMIDJI -- As Election Day draws near, local organizations are working harder than ever to encourage people to get out and vote.
On Thursday, organizations Rock the Vote Native Style and MN350 hosted a virtual panel to discuss political engagement, voter participation and building collective power in Indigenous communities across Minnesota.
The event was broadcast live on Facebook, with audience participation via the comments. Panelists spoke about why voting is important to them and discussed experiences with voter suppression.
Speaking during the event were Christian Taylor-Johnson from Leech Lake, Debra Topping from Fond Du Lac, E. Joey Oppegaard-Peltier who is Turtle Mountain Anishinaabe, Louisa Posada who is Pasqua Yaqui, Mescalero Apache and Cherokee Nations Cherokee, Nancy Beaulieu from Leech Lake, Joe Vital from the Native People’s Caucus, MN350 Training Director Nicole Ektnitphong, Jolene Jones from “Make Voting a Tradition,” Simone Senigoles from the Indigenous Environmental Network and Diego Guaman, a Latinx organizer from Knock Knock LLC.
Throughout the nearly two hour panel, themes of youth engagement, minority involvement and voter education loomed large.
Panelists brainstormed ideas to get more people involved in politics and active in their communities.
“It’s hard to get people involved when they’re struggling just to get by everyday,” Beaulieu said. “Help people get to the polls, take them to the city council meeting with you and teach them, that’s really important right now.”
Panelists also addressed the frustration disenfranchised voters may feel.
“The way that I’ve been having conversations about voting with people this election cycle is that it’s a stepping stone to create the conditions that we want to win bigger things," Ektnitphong said. “We know the electoral politics will not save us, but we have to create the conditions to allow us to win certain policies for our communities.”
Technical difficulties made for a rocky start to the panel as panelists kept getting kicked off of the video stream, but the group seemed in good spirits regardless.
Watch the panel in its entirety below: