Indigenous Peoples Day pushing people to voting booth - Tucson News Now

Indigenous Peoples Day pushing people to voting booth

The Yaqui Color Guard collects flags at an Indigenous Peoples Day celebration in South Tucson. (Source: KOLD News 13) The Yaqui Color Guard collects flags at an Indigenous Peoples Day celebration in South Tucson. (Source: KOLD News 13)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

While Columbus Day is still a federal holiday there are a growing number of local municipalities across the United States that recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day.

Several local governments in southern Arizona have signed proclamations to recognize it and this year it falls on the same day as the last chance for people to register to vote.

Professor Rob Williams, Director of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the University of Arizona, said Monday, Oct. 10, that the best way to commemorate the day is to register to vote and help indigenous people register as well.

"This is the most important election in the last 100 years for Indian rights because there's a vacancy on the Supreme Court," said Williams.

Native American issues won only a third of their cases in front of the Supreme Court since 1985, according to Williams. He said the percentage is so low that it's second only to criminals.

Williams said it's important for indigenous people and their allies to vote for a candidate who is more likely to appointment a Supreme Court Justice who supports tribal issues. The percentage of cases won has increased since the highest court in the nation has been locked at 4-4, according to the professor.

Anna Hohag, President of the Native American Law Students Association at the university, said there are still challenges to voting for people living on tribal land. She said the reservations can be far from polling places and securing the proper paperwork and IDs can be tough for families on unmarked streets without an address. 

She said it's all the more reason for everyone to take an interest in indigenous voters.

"Our vote matters locally because we can make those small changes that, then I think, can influence the larger stage," she said.

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The second presidential debate passed without a mention of Native Americans, but speakers, artists and activities took center stage at the annual Indigenous Peoples Day event at the Global Justice Center in South Tucson.

"There's a lot going on right here, in our backyard, that needs attention," said community member Rosemary Tona-Aguirre. "There's people here from different tribes, different nations and we're all sharing the stories."

Jose Hernandez's story is one of lifelong volunteering and public service. He is currently the commander for Yoeme American Legion Post 125 on the Pascua Yaqui reservation.

He and the rest of the Pascua Yaqui color guard posted the colors for Monday's event. Hernandez said his son turned 18 this year and he encouraged him to register to vote before it was too late.

"There's a lot of people in the tribe going out and getting people to register, even right now," he said. "Today they're getting registered. "

Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez said Monday that the county has coordinated with various tribal nations to organize events for registering voters. 

Copyright 2016 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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