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Every ten years, states redraw the community lines for both Native and non-Native lands within their borders. This process is known as redistricting. These imaginary lines determine election districts, and the way that they are drawn can have a huge impact on the people that live in a community. 

For example, imagine if a community district line is drawn through the center of a reservation or tribe. That line separates the Native community and tribal voters into two smaller groups. The voices of those groups can much more easily be overwhelmed by surrounding non-Native communities. It is easy to picture how that line would affect the tribe’s voting power, voice, and access to resources. If redistricting is not done fairly, it can affect a tribe’s voting power, voice, and access to resources. (Graphic/NARF)If redistricting is not done fairly, it can affect a tribe’s voting power, voice, and access to resources. (Graphic/NARF)

You may already know, but the redistricting season is here. Right now, states are drafting the maps that they will use for the next decade, and Native communities must take action to ensure that people who may know nothing about us are not drawing lines without our input. What we do now will have long-ranging effects. A fair district map is a first step in combating centuries of sustained, systemic racism. The decisions made (whether good or bad) will directly influence our lives for the next ten years.

Although “redistricting” may sound like a process that is happening far away and has nothing to do with us, it is not. Identifying community district boundaries is a very local action that has long-reaching impacts. Those imaginary district lines help determine who will represent us and what resources we will get—resources like funding for schools, roads, libraries, and hospitals. When we come together and fight for a fair district map, we are fighting for our community and our future. NARF Staff Attorney Matthew Campbell (Native Village of Gambell) gives testimony at ND Redistricting Committee hearing on September 15, 2021. (Photo/NARF)NARF Staff Attorney Matthew Campbell (Native Village of Gambell) gives testimony at ND Redistricting Committee hearing on September 15, 2021.

This is why it is so important for us to join and advocate for our communities during the redistricting process. Achieving fair districting in Indian Country for the next ten years requires community action right now! The lines are being drawn, and we need to make sure that our communities are fairly represented. We must take action for our future and our children’s future.

This process is already underway. In places like Alaska, they have already released draft maps and are seeking citizen feedback. In other states, like Montana, they will be holding hearings throughout October, November, and December. Although the process is different in each state, the actions that we can take are clear. We must:

  • Organize our communities. Come together with others on our reservation, in our tribe, or in neighboring communities to combine efforts and voices. Across the country, local communities, Native and non-Native, are organizing and advocating for more fair district boundary lines.
  • Define the boundaries that we want and need. We know our communities best, and we are best able to identify accurate community district lines. 
  • Communicate to the people who are drawing the lines what boundaries are appropriate for our community and why. Not only do we know our communities, we need to share that information so that outside voices aren’t defining us. This advocacy can include speaking at public hearings and submitting written testimony.

This redistricting process is happening in communities across the country right now. To help Native communities and tribes organize, the Native American Rights Fund is providing free guides and tools at https://vote.narf.org/redistricting/. We must participate and #ShapeNativeFutures by coming together and advocating for ourselves and our neighbors, our children, and our futures.

You’re reading the first draft of history. 

November is  Native American Heritage Month in the United States. We feel like every month — and every day — is a reason for celebrating Native Americans and our heritage. That’s what we try to do here at Native News Online, with stories each day that celebrate, inform and uplift American Indian and Alaska Native people. Over the past year or so, we have been especially busy with three important reporting projects that are having an impact across Indian Country:

  • Indian Boarding Schools. We’ve reported and published more than 150 stories and special live stream video events to help shine a light on the dark era of boarding schools — and help create momentum for change.
  • Native Health Desk. Launched in January, this reporting initiative was created to heighten awareness of Native American health inequities and spotlight pockets of progress in Indian Country. So far we’ve reported and published nearly 120 stories and launched a monthly health newsletter that reaches more than 23,000 readers.  
  • Native Bidaske. In March, we launched this live stream interview program to highlight the work of Native Americans who are making news and leading change in Indian Country.  We have hosted guests from the federal government and Native rights advocates as well as Indigenous actors, comedians, journalists and models.   

We hope you will join us in celebrating Native American heritage and history this November and invite you to consider the old adage that “Journalism is the first draft of history.” If you appreciate the voice Native News Online gives to Native American people, we hope you will support our work with a donation so we can build our newsroom and continue to amplify Native voices and Native perspectives.

Any contribution — big or small — helps us remain a force for change in Indian Country and continue telling the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked.  Most often, our donors make a one-time gift of $20 or more, while many choose to make a recurring monthly donation of $5 or $10.  Whatever you can do, it helps fund our Indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover Native news. 

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