(Lander, WY) – The 2022 Native American Voter Project (NAVP) had thirteen participants who registered to vote–ten of which were students of Arapahoe Charter High School–at their first “Early Voter Day” event on Thursday. Eleven out of the thirteen were first-time voters.
“Early Voting Day” is a part of Riverton Peace Mission’s 2022 Native American Voter Project, in collaboration with the Wind River Native Advocacy Center. The participants were transported from Arapahoe Charter School to the Fremont County Elections Office in Lander, where they became registered voters.
“That was so exciting; I was so ecstatic,” said NAVP Co-Organizer Leslie Spoonhunter. “Even though it was a small demographic, we made a very long stride forward. I think after all the first-time voters had cast their votes, we all had a moment of empowerment. They looked very proud, and we were very proud of them.”
Spoonhunter said that the Fremont County Elections Office was very helpful and took part in their excitement. “I would like to thank them for making everything go smoothly,” she said. “I’ve always felt passionate about empowering young people to make their voices heard, and that’s what happened yesterday.”
The participants were also able to cast their votes in the Northern Arapaho Tribal Elections for the first time. “I say that’s a very big accomplishment,” Spoonhunter said. “I hope they encourage their peers to stand strong and make their voices heard.”
Among those who participated as an “Early Voter” was Arapahoe Charter School Principal Katie Law. “I think the whole thing was great,” Law said. “We’ve had 18-year-old students eligible to vote in the past, but we never actually had an organized plan in moving forward, so this was a wonderful opportunity for our students and all of us.”
Law continued to say that it was also good for herself as a voter, as she realized that she’d be out of town on Election Day, “so it was good for me to be able to get that taken care of in time,” she said.
The NAVP is also reaching out to the tribal communities with its “Commit to Vote” campaign, which is geared to help Native Americans with the voter registration process and to make a commitment to vote in the General Elections on November 8. They plan on having more “Early Voter Day” events in the coming weeks, with one being planned at CWC in early November.
“The Riverton Peace Mission sponsors this project that seeks to increase Native American voter turnout that is historically lower than others in Wyoming,” said Riverton Peace Mission Co-Chairperson Chesie Lee. “We are especially pleased with seeing young people become engaged and discover the power of voting.”