Voting in Indian Country
The View from the Trenches
by Jean Reith Schroedel
Voting in Indian Country uses conflicts over voting rights as a lens for understanding the centuries-long fight for Native self-determination.
Among the American public, there is a collective amnesia about the U.S. government's shameful policies toward the continent's original inhabitants and their descendants. Only rarely, such as during the Wounded Knee standoff in the 1970s and the recent Dakota Access Pipeline protests, do Native issues reach the public consciousness. But even during those times, there is little understanding of historical context—of the history of promises made and broken over seven generations—that shape current events. Voting in Indian Country uses conflicts over voting rights as a lens for understanding the centuries-long fight for Native self-determination. Weaving together history, politics, and law, Jean Reith Schroedel provides a view of this often-ignored struggle for social justice from the ground up.
Differentiating this volume from other voting rights books is its use of ethnographic data, including the case study of a county with a population evenly split between whites and Native Americans, as well as oral histories of the people who have chosen to fight for voting rights. The stories of these lawyers, activists, and plaintiffs illuminate both the complexity and the vividness of their experiences on the front lines and their understanding of a connection to broader Native struggles for self-determination—both to control the lands and resources promised to them in perpetuity through treaties and to freely exercise the political rights and liberties promised to all Americans.
Part I. The Question of Citizenship
Chapter 1. The Framing of American Indian Citizenship
Chapter 2. Ambiguous Civic Status
Part II. The Promise of the Ballot Box
Chapter 3. The Voting Rights Act Reaches Indian Country
Chapter 4. The Shift to Vote Dilution, Suppression, and Abridgment
Chapter 5. A Case Study of Jackson County, South Dakota
Part III. Grassroots Perspectives
Chapter 6. Lawyers and Native Voting Rights
Chapter 7. Lifetimes of Activism
Chapter 8. Grassroots Voting Rights Activism
Chapter 9. Stepping Forward
Chapter 10. Why It Matters
"As a North Dakota State Representative, I have dealt with voting rights issues involving barriers towards our Tribal Nations and its members, and I can personally relate to Voting in Indian Country. Although this book covers and explains scientific data, it also brings in the importance of grassroots Native organizations pursuing equality at the ballot box. I highly recommend reading the book. It will open your eyes to our efforts here and now on the obstacles we face and what we are doing to correct the wrongs."—Representative Ruth Buffalo, North Dakota House of Representatives
"Voting in Indian Country is a meticulously researched and powerfully written study that is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the unique challenges of voting in Indian Country, as well as voting rights more generally. What sets it apart from other fine accounts about voting rights work and voting rights advocates is its grassroots perspective, provided by the oral histories of activists, lawyers, and plaintiffs, as well as the case study of voting rights in a South Dakota county. Anyone who reads this work will realize that it was written from Jean's heart."—Donald Ragona (Matinecock), Native American Rights Fund