To inspire potential Native voters before election day in the face of new obstacles in North Dakota voter identification laws, Native Americans in Philanthropy, Rock the Vote, Native Voice Network, Western Native Voice, Montana Native Vote and We Stand United sponsored a concert of music, dance, spoken word and comedy held at the Prairie Knights Casino on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation titled Stand-N-Vote.
Native Americans in Philanthropy, Rock the Vote, Native Voice Network, Western Native Voice, Montana Native Vote and We Stand United sponsored a concert of music, dance, spoken word and comedy held at the Prairie Knights Casino on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation titled Stand-N-Vote. Photo: Jaden Cowboy
Headliners included Avengers actor Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk) and musician Dave Matthews — both of whom had participated in the NoDAPL resistance camps at Standing Rock in 2016-2017 — and who agreed on short notice to lend their celebrity and spotlight to the Stand-N-Vote campaign.
Ruffalo told a Swedish television news crew before the show: “Everyone in this state knows Natives don’t have physical addresses. Natives were systematically targeted for suppression just weeks before the election.”
On October 8, 2018, the United States Supreme Court upheld a lower-court order requiring voters in North Dakota to present identification with proof of their residential address as a prerequisite to voting in next week’s elections. This was done despite the fact that on North Dakota reservations many people do not all have typical street addresses, and have often used post office boxes on their tribal IDs.
The Lakota Thunder Drummers and Northern Plain Dancers at the concert. Photo: Jaden Cowboy
The enactment of the new requirement was justified due to 31 cases of voter fraud between the years 2000 and 2014, but critics have stated the legislation was an effort to disenfranchise over 20,000 voters, primarily Natives and some college students and seniors.
Matthews, who addressed the crowd during his musical set, claimed the low numbers of voter fraud used to thwart efforts of voters was overkill. “It was a security measure to stop cheating, when no one was cheating.” Matthews added that “it would be good if their plan to prevent people from voting failed.” Between the songs “Oh Joy Begin” and “Satellite” he reminded everyone: “A lot of the world got their eyes opened by the power of what you showed the world.”
Award-winning musical artist Dave Matthews. Photo Jaden Cowboy
About 500 people attended the two-hour concert. It was live streamed on the Stand-N-Vote website, and is now available on YouTube.
Auntie Beachress, comedienne, brought some lighthearted fun to the concert. Photo: Jaden Cowboy
One of the concert’s aims was to publicize new identification cards offered free of charge by the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Spirit Lake Nation, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation / Three Affiliated Tribes.
In order to provide all the voters with new IDs the tribes purchased four new laminating machines and they’re printing the new IDs around the clock.
“The state’s putting up the hoops and what are we doing? We’re jumping through them,” said voting advocate Prairie Rose Seminole, a volunteer with Western Native Voice. She told the crowd that North Dakota lawmakers had passed the 2014 bill on a Friday afternoon requiring physical addresses by hogheading another bill, explaining that an unrelated bill was gutted and filled up instead with the physical address requirement. But she urged potential voters not to be defeated by the maneuver. “They did this because we’re powerful,” she said. “And we still have power, as long as we turn out.”
Nicole Montclair Donaghy, who represented Western Native Voice and ND Native Vote, told the crowd that no matter how they feel about the candidates running, “voting is a way we exercise our sovereignty.”
Prolific the Rapper, who used to work as a roughneck on an oil drilling rig, performed several songs which included voiceovers of the words of John Trudell. Prolific said that he gave up his former livelihood in the oil business because it was inconsistent with a life of prayer, and his participation at camp had turned him from a non-voter into a voter. One of Trudell’s messages that Prolific shares with his Native fans is that “we the people operate on true power, whereas their system is based on an illusion of power that makes us feel powerless.”
Prolific the Rapper (right) performing with Let it Bee at the concert. Photo: Jaden Cowboy
18-year-old Miss Standing Rock, Wanbli Waunsila Win Eagle, admitted she had fears about voting in the upcoming election, and told the youth to “ask your parents to help you if you’re scared to vote.”
In a memorable moment, Ruffalo fell to his knees and said to the crowd: “I love you, I kneel down to you. If you didn’t want to vote, I wouldn’t blame you one bit. But this is the Native American century, and this is is another moment to stand for Standing Rock.”
Native voters in North Dakota are urged to contact their enrollment offices in order to get the ID they need to cast their vote:
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa 1-701-477-6141
Spirit Lake 1-701-766-1219
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe 1-701-854-8500
Three Affiliated Tribes 1-701-627-4738