Building political influence of urban Indian community
It’s no surprise that those who yell the loudest are most likely to be heard by the politicians. Unfortunately, it also means that others, often the most in need of attention, are not heard at all.
And that is the problem facing Arizona’s thousands of “urban Indians.”
Urban Indians are Native Americans who live in city settings—often for jobs or education —instead of on a reservation. In metro Phoenix alone, that adds up to a little more than 56,000 people. But too many of these urban Indians are not participating in local, state and national elections with their most basic right of American citizenship: their vote. The result is that their interests are often not being represented.
Meanwhile, these urban Indians are living in communities that frequently become the sites of new environmental hazards like toxic waste dumps or water contamination.
That is why attention is being focused on the need for environmental justice.
“Environmental justice” means all communities should receive the representation and environmental protection they deserve.
The Arizona League of Conservation Voters (the League) is concerned not only with protecting our environment, but also with protecting the key to all citizen protection: the right to vote. That is why we are proud to partner with the Native American Community Organizing Project (NACOP) in co-sponsoring the first annual Urban Indian Town Hall on Feb. 10 in Phoenix.
The purpose of this Town Hall is twofold. First, the League wants to help the urban Indian community become better informed about and engage more actively in the political process. We also want to help connect the dots between how being more involved in public policy debates about public health and the environment –and more excited about voting–will get their voices heard.
Second, the Town Hall will address environmental justice issues and solutions. Native American philosophies and religious beliefs teach environmental stewardship, which translates into how human beings should treat the land. We will build on those beliefs as we discuss a more indirect way to help protect the land: voting for candidates who will fight for the interests of the urban Indian community. Ultimately, we hope to help engage the urban Indian community in politics, policy and the environment –and move them to join the ever-expanding rolls of conservation voters.
This first Urban Indian Town Hall will focus on the city budget process and public health concerns for urban Indian populations, such as how dedicating more resources to protect air quality and water quality will also help protect public health. This event is designed to be the first of many annual Town Halls that focus on building the political influence of the urban Indian community.
NACOP plans to hold future town halls, candidate forums and community sessions to continue informing and mobilizing urban Indian voters. The League looks forward to continuing to partner with NACOP in this work that is so vital to democracy in Arizona.
The Arizona League of Conservation voters is the largest organization of citizen-conservationists in the State. To find out more, visit www.azlcv.org.
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