To find Honorata Defender’s home on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, mention her name to whoever you can find walking down the main street of her tiny town. They’ll tell you to turn when you get to the powwow grounds and to take the paved road, rather than the gravel one. Drive until you see a hill, and look for her car. Her house has no number on it, and mail is not delivered there; it goes to a P.O. box instead. As Defender put it, “We’ve never believed that a person can own land; it’s the land that owns us.” She added, “The concept of an address wasn’t a big deal.” Defender was working at her job as a reporter for the Corson/Sioux County News-Messenger — the local paper that covers Standing Rock, including one of the key North Dakota counties that voted Democrat in 2012’s Senate election — when she learned that the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld North Dakota’s voter ID law. The law will require each voter to present identification that displays a residential address, a major barrier for tribal members, since thousands of Native voters don’t use a home address. Defender’s home is on the South Dakota side of Standing Rock, but it is typical of the communities throughout the reservation.
The law is widely understood as the result of Republican state Congress members’ cynical mathematics. Six years ago, North Dakota Native Americans helped swing Democrat Heidi Heitkamp narrowly into the U.S. Senate by less than 3,000 votes. The next year, state Republicans introduced the new law. Tribes fought it in court up until October 9, when the Supreme Court declined to support their appeal.
“To have this happen is a slap in the face,” Defender said. “The U.S. government has been breaking their promises to us for over a century now.” The timing of the court’s decision left the state’s five federally recognized tribes with only a few short weeks to make sure that members who do not have home addresses — or do not know them — are able to participate in a highly contested election that will help decide which party controls Congress.
Full Article: Native Americans Fight for the Right to Vote in North Dakota.