KAYENTA TOWNSHIP, Ariz. — With the devastating impact of Covid-19 that has left more than 570 dead on the Navajo Nation still fresh in her mind, 30-year-old Allie Young (Diné) turned the activism she employed to fight the deadly coronavirus into helping to register and get out the vote on the Navajo Nation.

Young sees this election important. So, she organized an initiative called the “Ride to the Polls” effort. The initiative’s name may imply that Young organized an effort to have voters picked up in a vehicle to get out to the polls, which is not the case. The effort involved riding to the polls on horseback.

The idea originated with her father, who told Young he had a vision of a group of riders, traveling to the polls on horseback. Young helped get the initiative started.

On Friday, Oct. 20, 15 horseback riders rode 10 miles to vote. It was the last day to vote in Kayenta Township, Ariz.

 

“We rode to the polls to honor our ancestors who fought for the right to vote,” Young told Native News Online. “We also rode to honor those who died from Covid-19, who are not here to vote in this election.”

On Instagram, Young posted:

“We did a thing the other day. We voted early! We saddled up our horses and rode 10 miles to the early voting polls to make our voices heard by casting our ballots. We rode in honor of our ancestors who fought for our right to vote. We rode in honor of our ancestors who rode longer miles and hours just to exercise their right to vote for us, our people, our lands, Mother Earth and Father Sky, and future generations.”

Ride to the Polls was conducted in collaboration with When We All Vote and March on the Polls.

Navajo nation voting

The idea to ride on horseback to the polls is innovative on the country’s largest Indian reservation. Some 175,000 Navajo citizens live on the Navajo Nation’s 127,000-mile territory. A large portion of the Navajo Nation lacks running water and electricity, with roads that can be difficult to travel. Some Navajo have to travel up to 70 miles just to vote.

Ride to the Polls attracted national media attention, including from Ms. Magazine and CNBC.

In March 2020, Young co-founded Protect the Sacred, a grassroots initiative created in response to Covid-19 to educate and empower Navajo youth and Native youth throughout Indian Country to rise up as the next generation of leaders by protecting their elders, their languages and their cultures.

Young said Protect the Sacred did not sponsor the Ride to the Polls.

Young also works for Harness, a nonprofit founded by America Ferrera, Wilmer Valderrama and Ryan Piers Williams. Harness is a national, intersectional community of well-known artists, activists and entertainment industry leaders that amplify the experiences of historically marginalized communities to reach masses of people.

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Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online Staff