Teri Orr: These united nations within these United States…
It is hard to fully measure — the impact of women in this year’s critical elections. The impact especially — of those women black and brown.
Prior to Nov. 4 there were a few stories and postings, here in the West, about Native women working to get out the vote. Finding ways to bring attention about the need to vote. Despite the fact that no other group has been hit harder by COVID per capita than the native community. Lack of running water and larger families that live together in remote areas and lack of places to buy food supplies on the reservations, all have been part of their crisis.
One clip I saw, leading up to Election Day, was a young woman from the Navajo Nation in southern Utah rounding up voters — male and female on horseback — dressed in traditional native clothing — to head to the polling place a few miles away. Of course, they could have driven in their individual cars in jeans and sweatshirts. But she was making a statement for others to see her, see them, along the road, exercising their right to vote, proud members of their nation within this nation.
Five million people who are American Indians live within the United States and represent 574 nations or tribes within this country. They have fought and served disproportionately in all our wars and are credited in helping end World War II with the Navajo Code Talkers — who simply spoke and wrote in their impossibly difficult language and served with honor.
But they have served also in Vietnam and Afghanistan. Despite the ugly treatment they have received for generations from the people who came and didn’t “discover” their country but rather occupied it. They have cared for and understood the cycles of the land long before we Bilagáanas decided we needed to “protect the environment” that we had been systematically destroying.
Right now, you have a chance to thank a group of those environmental patriotic warriors. Those folks who have served our country with dignity and honor in spite of our treatment of them. Here in Park City for 30 years, once from the old Main Street location of the Kimball Art Center, then the main lodge at Deer Valley Resort, a program called Adopt-A-Native-Elder has sold rugs. Under the inspiration, dedication and humble direction of Linda Myers (recognized as a CNN hero few years ago). A weaver herself, she decided to provide a space for the elders to sell their rugs to help them get through the brutal winters on The Rez. The rug show has always been held this weekend to also honor their service to our country and a ceremony concluded the event each year.
Like so many things 2020 — the rug show was forced online and began Thursday night. You will find stunning pieces of artwork, aka rugs, that are patterned and pictorial. There is also turquoise jewelry and soft dolls. Should you simply want to donate to the program to help with food and firewood for this difficult winter ahead, there are places on the site to do that also.
In the days after the election, as we have been dissecting how this vote — mostly by mail — was so very different, on my morning feed last Friday this popped up — from a woman writer well known in the West. Pam and I worked together for a minute in the ’80s at Dolly’s Bookstore here — between her stints as a river guide.
Pam Houston, November 6 at 10:42 AM:
“Good morning. Before we do anything else today let’s take a moment to reflect on the fact that Black and Native women saved us from ourselves (yet again) in by far the most important election of our lives. I know a lot of us worked very hard, I know you worked hard. I worked harder at fighting this evil than I’ve ever worked at anything. But far too many white women are still stuck in whatever narrative wants them to be abused, discounted and controlled, or makes them think they ARE in control…I don’t understand it and I want to think about it more. I feel great shame about it and those of us who are active need to address that moving forward. But this day, let’s think together with gratitude about Stacey Abrams, her brilliance and persistence and determination. Let’s think about all the Black women who walked past white people with guns to get to the polls. Let’s think about how Navajo women organized, to fight Covid, to get the vote out. Let’s learn from them. They saved our democracy. Let’s pay attention and follow their lead and maybe learn how to keep it.”
Then the next day this appeared in my morning feed.
Giovanni Morant, November 6 at 5:15 AM:
“After narrowly losing her race for governor in 2018, Stacey Abrams started on a crusade to register 800k voters in Georgia. Which she did. 45% of those new voters are under the age of 30 and 49% are people of color.
“Stacey Abrams not only opened the door for herself, she then held it opened. This win in a Georgia doesn’t belong to the Democrats or to Joe Biden. It belongs to her.”
And in New Mexico, three women of color were making news by being the first House delegation in history to ever be all women of color. They are also representing the Cherokee and Pueblo tribes. Republican and Democrats in party, but first, First Nation women.
With the planet and this nation being roughly 50% female, it is time the face of politics reflect that … beautifully. For little girls to see Kamala Harris serve, the dream of becoming like her will forever change how hopeful the planet can look to them. It still looks messy and scary and in need of almost insurmountable work but it also looks just like them — like hope tied up in a hair ribbon. Like hope woven into a rug. Like hope on horseback. And that is a beautiful thing to consider any day including this Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the founder of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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“Our community is fluid,” columnist Teri Orr writes. “Yet our actions are increasing rigid … and honestly — tired and stuck and unimaginative and nowhere near … .”