Monday, July 30, 2018

Native Americans are Aliens in their own land

          “Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shore, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. 
             From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy…. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade.…Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it….” 
                                                       Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In a landmark case (1875), Chief Standing Bear, a Ponca Native American chief sued for a writ of habeas corpus in Omaha, Nebraska. The case is called United States ex rel. Standing Bear v. Crook

As the trial drew to a close, raising his hand, Chief Standing Bear spoke,
“That hand is not the color of yours, but if I prick it, the blood will flow, and I shall feel pain," said Standing Bear. "The blood is of the same color as yours. God made me, and I am a man."

The judge ruled that " an Indian is a person  and “The right of expatriation is a natural, inherent and inalienable right and extends to the Indian as well as to the more fortunate white race.”

The Chief returned to his land.

But it was not until 1924 that Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act granting citizenship to all Native Americans, on or off the reservation. Still, they had no right to vote until 1948. Despite being granted the right to vote, several states continued to deny them because the Constitution left it up to the states to decide who has the right to vote. In Maine, Native Americans were finally given the right to vote in 1953; in Utah in 1957. In Colorado, Native Americans were not allowed to vote until 1970. It took over forty years for all fifty states to allow Native Americans to vote.

Even with the lawful right to vote in every state, Native Americans suffered from the same mechanisms and strategies, such as poll taxes, literacy tests, fraud and intimidation, that kept African Americans from exercising the right. Since signing of the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965, more than 90 lawsuits over Native American voting rights have been fought because of unequal access to voting on reservations, and changes to voting laws and procedures that disenfranchise Native Americans. Just since 2013, attorneys have filed at least six lawsuits about voting access for Native Americans.

Today, barriers to voting persist, including long drives to polling places (in some instances 100 miles), laws that ban collecting ballots for others, mistreatment and intimidation of tribal members at polling sites, voter identification requirements and unequal opportunities for Native Americans to serve as poll workers. According to Native American Times, Montana, North Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon continue to disenfranchise Native Americans.

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