For Allie Redhorse Young, Diné, or citizen of the Navajo Nation, and founder of organization Protect the Sacred, increasing the number of Native Americans at the polls is about more than politics. It’s also personal.
After all, her mission to empower Native youth while also helping tribal elders is inspired by her own family.
“The Native community faces incredible challenges. And I think for the rest of the country, it’s hard to comprehend,” Young told In The Know by Yahoo at the MAKERS Conference, where she appeared as a speaker. “But come to a reservation, come to our rural communities where you can see just how hard it is to even get to a polling location because of the distance from where people live in those rural communities.”
Young wanted to create an organization that “empowers and educates the next generation of Native leaders to strengthen Indigenous sovereignty” after her younger brother committed suicide at 17 years old, when she was a mere 18.
“He is the center, at the heart of everything that I do,” Young shared, “in my own writing, as a creative writer, as well as my work as an advocate for our youth, because I know how challenging it is growing up in our community, especially on and near the reservation, especially in those border-town communities, where we face racism at a much higher level.”
The writer and activist, 32, officially launched Protect the Sacred in 2020 in response to the COVID crisis, which hit the Navajo Nation especially hard.
“The whole meaning behind Protect the Sacred was about protecting our elders who were at most risk at that time. And they were the ones being impacted by the pandemic,” Young told In The Know.
“Our elders hold our ancestral knowledge, our languages, our medicine ways. And I was asking our Native youth at that time to step up as leaders to protect our elders,” she continued.
Ride to the Polls
For the midterm elections, happening on Nov. 8, Young is calling on Native youth from her own Navajo Nation and beyond to get involved. In her “Ride to the Polls” campaign, Young encourages youth to not only vote themselves, if they’re old enough, but to also help others get to the polls — by car, by skateboard, by foot or by horse.
“Ride to the Polls is about getting on any mode of transportation that you can find and getting to the polls,” Young emphasized. “Because if our ancestors could saddle up and ride two hours to a polling location to exercise the right that they fought for, then we can too. We have no excuse.”
Young wants Native communities to exercise their vote and make their voices heard about issues ranging from land and water rights, education, health care and missing and murdered Indigenous women.
While Young’s primary focus is the Navajo Nation and Native Americans beyond her tribe, Young’s efforts aren’t for Indian Country alone. She also wants to extend her reach “across BIPOC communities, across disenfranchised communities” all over the country.
“It’s all about what we can do when we vote,” Young said. “When we show up to vote, we can reclaim our power, we can reclaim our land, our streets, our voices, our future.”
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