Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

To Vote or Not to Vote: Native Choice


I teach native politics, treaties, and federal Indian law at the University of Minnesota. In my current course, Law, Sovereignty, & Treaty Rights, we just read a splendid short article by Russel Barsh that describes the rich political and cultural diversity of Indigenous peoples at the global level. He points out, for example, how Indigenous peoples in states like the United States and Australia, where their demographic footprint is small—less than 2 percent of the overall population and controlling less than 5 percent of the territory—typically engage in intergovernmental politics very differently than in states like Bolivia, Mexico, or New Zealand, where the indigenous population is much larger: 10 to 50 percent or more and where they control or live on a much larger territorial mass.

In places like Bolivia, Native peoples wielding considerable electoral and economic power tend to focus on seeking direct representation within the national government and thus frequently align politically with other racial or ethnic groups with similar goals. However, the landscape is very different for Indigenous peoples who are a numerical minority within the confines of a large state, as in the United States. Since the late 1960s, Native nations have balanced very public efforts to maintain and strengthen autonomy with deliberate political segregation which has proven vital for delineating our existence as distinct sovereign nations separate and apart from racial, ethnic, and gender groups who generally seek a measure of inclusion in the larger polity.



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