Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day! This day is important for me and so many others, and I want to take the time to thank the Washington Tribal leaders, elders, and community members for taking care of me, and for taking care of my daughter, Emma. Without all of you, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Please take a few minutes and watch my video below for the full statement.
Getting out the Native Vote
I want to raise my hands and thank the Honorable Senator John McCoy for clearing the pathway for the next generation of Native leaders in Washington – not just in the State Legislature, but in the federal delegation as well. It was an honor to serve the people alongside Senator McCoy, and to watch and participate in history when we passed The Native American Voting Rights Act in 2019. We removed barriers so more Native Americans could easily vote by allowing them to register online with their Tribal Registration Cards, designating Tribal Buildings as the address they use for voter registration, and requesting voter support and drop boxes within those buildings, we expanded democracy for everyone.
Rep. Lekanoff and Senator McCoy in 2018
Voting is the most important way to use our collective voice to elect people who look like us, and who have the cultural understanding and grounding to build bridges across all levels of government – Tribal, Local, State, and Federal. And now, our votes are more important than ever. October 20, 2020 is Native Vote Day, and tribes around the state, including Lummi leaders Freddie Lane and Teresa Taylor, are making sure their communities know how and where to vote. Ballots are coming out this week, and we need every single person to get out there and vote as early as possible, because our lives depend on it.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to Reinstate the White House Tribal Nations Conference
For eight years, President Obama and his Administration held an annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, where federally recognized tribes from around the country visited the White House and discussed key issues facing Indian Country with President Obama’s full cabinet. These events were incredibly important to indigenous people everywhere, because we finally saw the President coming forward to hear about and address the issues and concerns of Indian Country.
In 2016, our current administration ended this eight-year tradition of hosting the Tribal Nations Conference. The current administration has ignored tribal leaders’ requests to reinstate the Conference, so for the past four years we have been denied a seat at the President’s table.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris released their Plan for Tribal Nations last Thursday, in which they promise to immediately restart the Tribal Nations Conference and again respect tribal sovereignty. The plan states, “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are committed to upholding the U.S.’s trust responsibility to tribal nations, strengthening the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the United States and Indian tribes, and working to empower tribal nations to govern their own communities and make their own decisions.”
This article from Native News Online provides more details on the Biden-Harris Plan for Tribal Nations.
Continuing our work on Restricting the use of Native Mascots in Washington State
We have worked over recent months to address the issue of Native mascots for our sports teams through the legislature, and I remain committed to resolving this issue at the statewide level. Currently, we’re working through the details of a new legislative proposal that would restrict the ability for teams to have Native mascots or names – including whether to make exceptions for mascots and team names that have approval from the nearest tribe.
This is an issue deeply personal to countless Native people right here in Washington, and across the country. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) released this statement in support of ending the use of Native mascots, paying special attention to the harm they cause Native youth. In 15 to 20, 50 or 100 years, when the youth of today and the next seven generations look back at our bills and how we treated one another, they’ll look at this bill and say, ‘It was just a little bill, but it brought some hope and respect for all.’
We must never stop working to bring hope and respect to everyone that we can.
Celebrate Native American Regalia
It was one of my biggest honors over the 2019-2020 Legislative Session to sponsor and pass a bill allowing students to wear regalia and other objects of cultural importance to school ceremonies such as graduations and similar events. Every Indigenous student deserves the right to wear their regalia to honor their ancestors and cultural values. I want to honor Patsy Whitefoot, Yakama Nation member, for her dedication to tribal sovereignty and for showing up to support my work on the regalia bill.
I also raise my hands to Jamestown Chairman Ron Allen and Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman for their strong and unwavering support as this bill was making its way through the Legislature. I would not be here without the three of you and so many others who lift me up and bring so much to our communities and to the world.