news, politics

Power to the First People

My article from my summer fellowship, News 21, finally made it into High Country News.

Native Americans are poised to swing some Western battleground states

by Rebecca Ford


The phones are down in Sonny Weahkee’s cluttered office on a quiet street near the University of New Mexico. But Weahkee, a Navajo, Cochiti and Zuni Pueblo Indian with a dark ponytail and a patient, gentle way of speaking, is still working on this late July day. As the executive director of the nonprofit Sacred Alliance for Grassroots Equality (SAGE) Council, he has his hands full mobilizing New Mexico’s sizeable Native American population to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

Other Native American activist groups, such as the Washington, D.C.-based National Congress of American Indians and the Oklahoma-based Indigenous Democratic Network, or INDN’s List, have mounted similar efforts across the country, working to raise awareness among candidates and voters of the need for better-funded Native healthcare and education. “If we stand together and vote together on whatever issue, we can start to gain some momentum and start turning people’s heads,” Weahkee says……

See the rest here.


News 21 Goes Live

The website for the News 21 Fellowship  I’ve been involved with for the last ten weeks finally goes live tonight. The stories range from Evangelicals, to new citizens to Native Americans and how their votes will affect the upcoming election. Each story has multimedia elements, including slideshows, video and maps.

I spent some time talking to Native Americans in New Mexico, and discovered that a handful of activists have been working for nearly 20 years to get Native Americans registered to vote. Their efforts are finally paying off this year, with thousands of New Mexico Native Americans mobilized to have a real influence over the outcome of the state.

New Mexico is a beautiful state–with blue sky for days and stunning cliffs–but the poverty of the people was tough to see. Here are some photos, and please check out the site.

Please feel free to check out the general site here:

And my page here.

news, politics

Vying for Native American Votes

ALBUQUERQUE — Native American voters, often treated as an afterthought in presidential elections, are receiving an unprecedented amount of attention from both presidential candidates this year in the battleground state of New Mexico.

It’s a development nearly two decades in the making in which a handful of Albuquerque–based activists have been working to create a well-organized and powerful Native American voice.

Today, with 63,000 registered voters, according to the Secretary of State’s Office, Native Americans may well be the swing constituency in one of the most politically volatile states in the country.

The Sacred Alliance for Grassroots Equality (SAGE) Council, founded in 1996 by brother and sister Sonny and Laurie Weahkee, was formed to protest the construction of a road through the Petroglyph National Monument on Albuquerque’s fast-growing westside….

For the rest of the article, see The New Mexico Independent.
Or cross-posted at The Huffington Post

politics, travel

Spending time on the Rez

Today is my last day in New Mexico. I returned from Navajo Nation today. I got my story, which was my ultimate goal, but I also got an eye-opening experience after visiting Navajo Nation. I had a great guide to take me around. It is difficult to put into words the conditions that exist on the reservation. Some people don’t have running water. Some live right next to an electricity pole, but don’t have the money to get it installed in their home. Meth abuse is on the rise. Domestic abuse is nearly twice the rate as in the general population. Their local government is fighting corruption.

There are some amazing people working hard to help those around them. And there are some amazing things going on. But the level of poverty is overwhelming.

There are plenty of people in the country who complain about having it tough. I hear it everyday at home. But after traveling to the reservation and seeing the struggle between living in the present and still respecting their cultural pasts, I am sure that the Navajos are some of the strongest people out there.

My guide actually helped out with an episode of a FX show called 30 Days. The premise of the show is about this filmmaker who spends 30 days with people in different living situations. So, he goes to Navajo Nation. I can imagine that it will be a great learning experience. Check out the episode on July 8 at 10 pm.


New Mexico

I am in New Mexico for a few days for a story I am doing, and so far all I’ve seen is Albuquerque. It’s a nice little city, if only for the fact that it lacks the crowded rush of Los Angeles. Leaving LA has really made me realize how much I have fallen comfortably in the ways of that city. Here, people drive slower. They talk slower. It’s a nice change, but it just reminds me of how much I love a real, big city.

But there’s no denying the sky of this place.

I’m off to Navajo Nation for the next couple of days. It will be my first time on Native American sovereign land, so it will be an interesting experience.