Sovereignty, equity, the environment: A Native American voter weighs in on what's at stake

Nov 6, 2020

While election results won’t be official until absentee ballots are counted, one local Native American voter says that there is more than partisan politics on the line.

Michael Galban is a Native American citizen of the Washoe and Northern Paiute people. He says that while some Indigenous people do not vote in U.S. elections, he did.“We’re just a portion of creation not the entirety, and so that’s always been our position as Native people to protect the environment, to protect creation,” said Galban. “That, for me at least, appears to be on the ballot.”

Galban said that many in this area don’t vote outside of their own systems of governance, whether to assert their sovereignty, or out of a feeling of powerlessness to impact in U.S. governance. He doesn’t fault them for it nor does he see it as a weakness.

“I would never criticize somebody for that stand,” said Galban. “That’s sort of the real beauty, maybe, of Indigenous thought is that we can be lots of things and we can be tolerant of all kinds of ideas.”

Of the hundreds of treaties between Native American nations and tribes and the U.S., Galban says every one of them has been broken, so there’s very little trust in those relationships. 

For the Haudenosaunee people of this region, they have inherited one of the oldest democracies in the world, the Iroquois Confederacy, which was founded by the Great Peacemaker. 

The biggest difference between what Haudenosaunee people created and U.S. democracy today, he said, is that the Haudenosaunee honor strength in unity with the power of a complex ideology called the Good Mind, with kind and loving intention.

“The teachings of at least the Haudenosaunee people are that the decisions we make today impact seven generations into the future and so that weighs heavy on people’s minds,” he said.

In the U.S. today, he said there’s very little common ground and far more fractures. For Galban, leadership based in truth holds a future, while leadership that lies to the people cannot progress. 

“I think the United States has not seen this kind of division in some time and the sense that I get as a Native American is that our interests are at stake in terms of our sovereignty, our attention and focus on the environment, and equity for all,” he said. "I think it’s all up for grabs in this election."