More than 500 people from the Native American community gathered in Oklahoma city for the daylong “Rock the Native Vote” effort on June 5, 2004. Led by the faith community in Okalahoma, including the United Methodist Church, “Rock the Native Vote” is a nationwide effort to encourage Native American young adults to vote in the presidential election and to create social change through the political process.
“It went off pretty well for a first time event,” said the Rev. David Wilson, superintendent of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference of the United Methodist Church and chair of the “Rock the Native Vote” planning committee.
The event featured several contemporary Native artists who drew attention from Native Americans of all ages. By the day’s end, the volunteers registered 60 new voters.
“It’s important because our people don’t always understand there are so many things that happen that are affected by legislation on local, state and national levels,” said Wilson. “Our people need to realize that if we don’t speak out personally and at the polls then our voices will not be heard.” One major concern facing Indian country is government funding for health care programs relating to diabetes, heart disease and alcoholism.
While the number of new registered voters was only a fraction of the 1,000 goal set for the event, Wilson said coordinators were still encouraged, and are planning similar activities at a more local scale.
“We want to continue the movement,” Wilson said. Several tribes in Oklahoma and across the country have contacted the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference wanting to host similar events. “We feel like we inspired and helped give other people ideas on how to bring attention to voter registration.”
Wilson also said African American Churches across the nation provide a good example of how important it is for churches to be involved in public policy.
Said Wilson: “Indians don’t have the numbers that African American churches have, but our voices still need to be heard.”
The event was the first step in a concerted effort to register people and encourage them to vote.