Group targets Indian voters

By KATHY KORENGEL

Herald Writer

TULALIP — Maureen Hoban said she’s lived on the Tulalip Indian Reservation for many years, but she saw something during this last election she hasn’t seen before.

"There were young tribal members waving voting signs on the sidewalks," said Hoban, who is not a Tulalip.

"They not only were voting themselves, they were getting others out to vote," Hoban said. "That’s a first."

Hoban, like others, attributes the increasing political interest among Tulalips partly to the campaign of John McCoy, a tribal member who ran for state Legislature, but was not elected.

But also, she, like others, sees it as a sign of success of the efforts of a nonprofit group of tribal members that recently formed to educate the public about American Indian issues. And to encourage tribal members to get involved in the political process.

The group is called the First American Education Project. And according to a preliminary analysis of voter registration and turnout among the state’s American Indians, those efforts have paid off.

In precincts that are predominantly Indian, more than 4,650 new people registered to vote for the last election and 69.9 percent of registered voters in those precincts made it to the polls, based on data from the county auditor’s offices, said Russ Lehman, managing director of the education project.

The educational agency is a nonprofit, nonpartisan corporation first formed by tribal members in Washington state in 1999. Members of the Olympia-based group now come from 45 tribes from throughout the country, Lehman said.

"We formed to educate the public on issues of interest to Indian people," Lehman said. "And a part of that was to use (Sen.) Slade Gorton to do that for us."

McCoy, the Tulalips’ executive director of governmental affairs, said Gorton was singled out because of longstanding differences with tribes over their sovereign status and on environmental issues that affect tribes.

Gorton did not return calls for comment.

Although the group has branched out from its focus on Gorton, it hopes to educate the public on similar Indian issues.

"Indian voters care about pretty much the same things as other voters: the environment, education, health care," Lehman said.

"But they also have unique issues, like the right to self-governance that they were given by treaty hundreds of years ago," he said.

The group has worked to further its goals in many ways: through public forums, a recent "sovereign rally" at the University of Washington, and even running television ads during the recent election espousing its opposition to Gorton’s views.

The group plans to hold an educational seminar for state legislators in the first week of January, McCoy said, "a kind of Indian Law 101."

But of all the group’s activities, Lehman said the most exciting part of the project has been seeing Indians become more involved in the political process.

"We see individuals voting and working on campaigns and running for office," he said, adding that six American Indians were newly elected to office in Montana in the last election, as were several others in Oklahoma.

American Indians "are acting as full participants in the process. It’s exciting," he said.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

Grayson Huff, left, a 4th grader at Pinewood Elementary, peeks around his sign during the Marysville School District budget presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
State OKs Marysville plan with schools, jobs on chopping block

The revised plan would mean the loss of dozens of jobs and two schools — still to be identified — in a school district staring down a budget crunch.

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

The Trestle’s junction with I-5 is under evaluation (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Here’s your chance to give feedback on the US 2 trestle and its future

Often feel overwhelmed, vulnerable and on shaky ground? So is the trestle. A new $17 million study seeks solutions for the route east of Everett.

John Pederson lifts a flag in the air while himself and other maintenance crew set up flags for Memorial Day at Floral Hills Cemetery on Friday, May 24, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Volunteers place thousands of flags by veterans’ graves in Lynnwood

Ahead of Memorial Day, local veterans ensure fellow military service members are never forgotten.

Brian Hennessy leads a demonstration of equipment used in fire training at the Maritime Institute in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
‘Ready to go full sail’: Maritime Institute embarks at Port of Everett

The training facility offers Coast Guard-certified courses for recreational boaters and commerical vessel operators.

George Beard poses for a photo outside of the the Stanwood Library in Stanwood, Washington on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
From sick to the streets: How an illness left a Stanwood man homeless

Medical bills wiped out George Beard’s savings. Left to heal in his car, he got sicker. Now, he’s desperate for housing. It could take years.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Lawsuit says Snohomish County deputies not justified in Sultan shooting

Two deputies repeatedly shot an unarmed Sultan man last year, body camera video shows. An internal investigation is pending.

An airplane is parked at Gate M9 on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. (Jordan Hansen/The Herald)
Good luck to Memorial Day travelers: If you’re like me, you’ll need it

I spent a night in the Chicago airport. I wouldn’t recommend it — but with flight delays near an all-time high, you might want to pack a pillow.

toon
Editorial cartoons for Friday, May 24

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Cascade’s Mia Walker, right, cries and hugs teammate Allison Gehrig after beating Gig Harbor on Thursday, May 23, 2024 in Lacey, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Seniors Wilson, Tripp power Cascade softball past Gig Harbor

The pair combined for three homers as the Bruins won the Class 3A state softball opening-round game.

The original Mountlake Terrace City Council, Patricia Neibel bottom right, with city attorney, sign incorporation ordinance in 1954. (Photo provided by the City of Mountlake Terrace)
Patricia Neibel, last inaugural MLT council member, dies at 97

The first woman on the council lived by the motto, “Why not me?” — on the council, at a sheriff’s office in Florida, or at a leper colony in Thailand.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.