CREDE hosts ‘Why Engaging in Voting is Sacred’ to kick off Native American Heritage Month

The president of the North Carolina Democratic Party Native American Caucus, Crystal Cavalier, highlighted the Native American vote in the 2020 election during the Nov. 2 discussion.

Crystal Cavalier, and a citizen of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation and president of the North Carolina Democratic Party’s Native American Caucus, discussed the importance of the Native American vote and the engagement of Native youth in politics during a Nov. 2 event to kick off Native American History Month.

North Carolina has the largest Native American population east of the Mississippi, Cavalier said, and there are eight state-recognized tribes in the state. Cavalier is also a part of Native Organizers Alliance where she has been going across North Carolina encouraging indigenous people to register and vote. “This election cycle has engaged the most Natives in any election cycle,” Cavalier said.

During the primary, several candidates talked about issues related to Native Americans, with both Donald Trump and Joe Biden releasing plans on issues such as tribal sovereignty. North Carolina was a battleground state this election cycle and both presidential candidates acknowledged the importance of the Lumbee Tribe’s vote in particular.

“They recognize that the Lumbee, who are about 60,000 members, can swing political elections,” Cavalier said.

Indigenous youth are also getting more involved in this election cycle using social media such as Instagram to make their voices heard. Cavalier explained that young people were especially motivated by the undoing of environmental regulations and issues like the Dakota Access Pipeline which tribes like the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe opposed.

Native Americans did not fully get the right to vote until the 1960s and while there are still challenges, there has been an increase in voter registration among Natives. “Many of our ancestors died for the right to vote,” she said.

At the start of September, there were 54,000 Native Americans registered to vote in North Carolina. By the end of September, there had been a 20,000 jump in voting registration. While they don’t have the data on who they voted for, Cavalier said this is significant.

“We just know that they registered and voted for the first time,” she said. “So that is huge.”

A full list of Native American Heritage Month events is available here.