Coverage of tribal natural resources is partially supported Catena Foundation
Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes meets outside the NATIVE HEALTH voter registration booth at this weekend’s open house and health fair.
NATIVE HEALTH of Phoenix is the first Indian health facility to secure a site designation under the National Voter Registration Act. It happened near the end of this weekend’s annual open house and health fair on Saturday. Several high-profile local and federal guests arrived, including Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, who came to present the proclamation.
Throughout history, indigenous communities have avoided participating in elections. Frequent changes of address and the use of post office boxes also make voting difficult. President Joe Biden signed an executive order in 2021, calling on his federal agencies to address these barriers and barriers to access.
IHS Deputy Director Benjamin Smith, a member of the Navajo Nation, welcomed the milestone in Phoenix.
“As part of this effort, President Biden has pledged to designate five Indian Health Service voter registration pilot sites by the end of this calendar year,” Smith said. “So we are honored to be here and celebrate NATIVE HEALTH as the first to receive the National Voter Registration Act designation under the Indian Health Service in line with the President’s vision.”
Indian Health Service Deputy Director Benjamin Smith makes his remarks at NATIVE HEALTH of Phoenix on Saturday.
Fontes spoke outside an urban clinic along North Central Avenue as an inflatable ax throwing game went off after a day-long health fair.
“In our democracy, every single vote must count, especially when those voices have been silent for a long time,” Fontes said. “Unless they were throwing axes there, those voices continue.”
A woman walks carrying “Indian Country Matters” in the 39th annual Native American Connection Parade.
More than a third of Native Americans – about 1.2 million adults – are not registered to vote. And with nearly 3 million nationwide relying on IHS annually, the Biden administration believes, “The designation empowers NATIVE HEALTH to assist individuals in the voter registration process, making it easier for qualified citizens to exercise their right to vote,” as Fontes read his announcement.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the Indian Citizenship Act, which gave Native Americans the right to vote.