Indigenous

Mixed reactions to benefits of voting at Standing Rock protest camp

Hundreds of people are camped out at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation to show their support for the community, which is opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline. But with many campers coming from out of state, did they manage to get out and vote on Tuesday?

Under North Dakota voter registration rules, many out-of-state campers qualified to vote

A sign declaring opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline is displayed at the entrance of the Sicangu Oyate camp on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation. (Stephanie Cram/CBC)

Hundreds of people are camped out at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation in North Dakota to show their support for the community, which is opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline. But with many campers coming from out of state, did they manage to get out and vote on Tuesday?

There are thousands of protesters in Standing Rock, which is just south of the point where the under-construction pipeline will cross the Missouri River.

Many who came from out of state could cast a ballot under North Dakota voter registration rules, which state people can sign an affidavit at a voting station indicating they've lived in the state for at least 30 days and plan to stay in the state after the election.

A representative from the Green Party set up a Standing Rock campaign headquarters, which remained open until Nov. 6. (Stephanie Cram/CBC)
With many out-of-state campers having been in Standing Rock for months, there was a push from organizers to get them to the nearby voting station in Cannon Ball, N.D., with many campers offering to drive people to and from the voting station. 

Leading up to the election, Green Party signs were displayed throughout the protesters' main camp, called Oceti Sakowin, even though there wasn't a Green Party candidate running in North Dakota.

People in the camp also showed their support for Chase Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who ran for Congress for the Democrats but was defeated by incumbent Republican congressman Kevin Cramer.

"I've been here since mid-August, so I qualified under state regulations for living here 30 days, with a desire to stay after the election," said Thomas Joseph, from Hoopa, Calif., who voted on election day.

Being in a different state meant he changed who he voted for.

"I was going to vote for [Green Party presidential candidate] Jill Stein as a California resident, but because I'm here in North Dakota, I voted for Hillary Clinton," said Joseph, who voted for the Democratic candidate despite being skeptical she would have helped Native Americans.

"For us Indigenous folks, this would be the 45th president that has treated Indigenous people the same way the last 44 have — no new change for us." 

Joseph said the main reason he voted in North Dakota was to support Iron Eyes, who is opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline. 

Many at camp did not vote

The feeling among a lot of the Indigenous people living at the camp in the days leading up to the election was there was no point in voting, since neither of the main presidential candidates — Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, who won — appeared to be concerned about Indigenous issues. 

And many people in the camp believe both have vested interest in the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Ray Bones Lowery, from Pyramid Lake Nevada Paiute Nation, decided not to vote. 

"I myself do not believe in the white man's laws.… I believe in the old laws of nature of the Native Americans," said Lowery. "For the natives, a lot of them are the way I am: It just doesn't matter. It's going to happen anyway, and we will survive.

"We've survived colonialism, we've survived trauma, we've survived a lot over 500 years with the non-Natives."

Some voters optimistic, despite outcome 

April Tucker, 21, was a first-time voter from the Navajo Nation in Arizona. She decided to vote early, before coming to the Standing Rock camp, because she believes young Indigenous people need to have their voices heard in the democratic process. 

She voted for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein because her party supports green energy initiatives and is against the development of the Dakota Access Pipeline. 

Despite not being happy with the outcome on Tuesday, Tucker is optimistic.

"I believe that things happen for a reason, and that maybe the Creator has a purpose for things happening the way they do," said Tucker. "We'll just see how everything plays out — hopefully for the good of the people."

Several campers at Standing Rock's main camp, called Oceti Sakowin, showed their support for North Dakota candidates. (Stephanie Cram/CBC)

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