What is a “democracy?”
This is Trahant Reports.
The Supreme Court last week let stand a court ruling that allows North Dakota to disenfranchise Native voters. State law requires a government-issued ID with a physical address in communities where there are no physical addresses. This changes the rules used in the primary election. So a voter who voted just a couple of months ago could be refused a ballot this time around.
No worries ruled the majority on the Supreme Court (and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit) there is plenty of time — a month — to fix the problem. Not that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe won’t try. External affairs director Danielle Finn tweeted that plans are underway for an emergency addressing system.
Quote: “Why is it getting harder and harder for Native Americans to vote?” asks Standing Rock Chairman Mike Faith in a news release. “This law clearly discriminates against Native Americans in North Dakota. Our voices should be heard and they should be heard fairly at the polls, just like all other Americans.”
Indeed, Faith raises a higher standard. He says tribal citizens — even with post office boxes — live “in accordance with the law and treaties. But now all of a sudden they can’t vote.”
Power of treaties. Did you know: There are treaties that give tribal citizens the right to a delegate in the Congress?
Congress has had delegates since 1794. The first, James White of Ohio, wasn’t even sure he whether he would serve in the House or the Senate. But it was decided that he could be a an “envoy” to Congress. He would not be able to vote. But he could serve on committees, hire a staff, and be recognized in Congress.
Today there are six Delegates in Congress, representing Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Indian Country should be included in this equation. The Navajo Nation, a geographic, political entity, that’s far larger and has more people than the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa or the Northern Mariana Islands.
Congress should have done this a long time ago. For example: In the Choctaw Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek of 1830 there was a provision for a “Delegate to Congress.”
Congress could make this happen with a simple, majority vote. It is not a Constitutional act.
Full authority or not, at least congressional delegates are there. Seated. At the table. Their very presence would be a reminder about the unique political status of tribal governments.
How could this work? Easy. Tribal nations with large populations should have a delegate. Perhaps smaller tribes could band together by region or language group and have a regional delegate. If population is the criteria, then there ought to be at least seven delegates. Proportional democracy.
Then every member of the nation — including tribal nations — would be have a say in this government.
I am Mark Trahant.