(Cara Currie Hall on the Enoch Cree First Nation in Alberta. Currie Hall is Canada hoping to get Indigenous people to vote. (Photo: Brandi Morin/APTN)
APTN National News
One of the founders of the Rock the Indigenous Vote movement in the United States is calling on Aboriginal people in Canada to get out to the polls.
Cara Currie Hall said it’s time for Indigenous People to make their voices heard, loud and clear.
“Together I think we can make a thunder sound across the country,” said Currie Hall. “We can hear the drum beats- hear them, listen for them because we are rising up!”
Currie Hall was born and raised in Maskwacis, Alta on the Montana First Nation and comes from a long line of political influence.
Her mother’s father was a tribal leader in his community.
Her father Cecile Currie Senior was the Chief of Montana First Nation in the 1960s as was his father before him.
Currie Hall said her father was one of the initiators of the creation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and worked closely with Wilton Littlechild who helped write and develop it.
“My dad initiated this kind of work on defending your Treaty rights. This (voting) is also part of defending your treaty rights.
The government is trying to oppress us and do away with those rights, we need another 1960s push back like what happened with the White paper.”
For the past 16 years, Currie Hall has lived in North Dakota on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Her husband is a Tribal leader on council there.
During President Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign in 2007, Currie Hall helped to organize Native Americans into a block vote for him. Currie Hall said that led to a Native American woman on President Obama’s senior staff and a Native American lawyer appointed as a US ambassador.
“We have a president in the United states that recognized that we could bring a unique block to him and Native Americans came out 4 to 1 behind him.”
She said Indigenous voters are a force to be reckoned with.
“When we won, Obama stayed true to his promises. We had direct access and dialogue with the president,” she said. “He now holds an annual dialogue summit with Tribal leaders and they meet on a nation to nation basis.”
Currie Hall said Rock the Indigenous Vote is a grassroots movement by the people and for the people. It started with a small group of people networking, word spread from there, and it paid off.
Currie Hall feels confident that a similar impact could be made in Canada in the upcoming election.
She came back home to Canada last week to help push the Indigenous vote here.
“In Canada we’re not counted on to be part of the statistics. Together First Nations, Metis and Inuit make up several million, so that’s a block vote. There’s at least 50 candidates that are Indigenous running for office,” she explained.
“Here’s what we can do – one: we get the word out that we need to vote, two: we actually do vote. Then we switch the statistics around,” she said. “Then we become the block who never got included in any of those polls or stats. Then we elect 50 people to parliament. We could get 50 people in there. That’s actually doable in 14 days from now!”
Currie Hall said one of her main motivations to Rock the Indigenous Vote is so that Indigenous voices will heard and represented nationwide.
“This has been our entire history, that we have not been supported. They’ve (Canadian government) tried every possible way to assimilate us and to terminate us, they and most governments around the world do that,” she said. “But the Canadian government is doing that today.”
The federal government has endorsed the UNDRIP and maintains that it is simply an aspirational document but not legally binding in Canada.
“For one, implementing free, prior and informed consent. Which means no plans to develop go ahead without receiving the free prior and informed consent of the Indigenous people, because they own the minerals and the land,” she said. “Which means nothing happens without their full consent.”
She also said Indigenous People need to invoke the inclusion of Creator God and call on Him for direction in the election process.
“We are a people that are spiritual, we do pray and we acknowledge there is one creator. God is the supreme Sovereign. Our people understood sovereign – when we put it in that context- there’s someone higher than us and we need that help,” she said. “The impact of what we do today is going to ripple into the next generations following us.”
This week Currie Hall will be speaking with Chiefs from across Canada as they gather in Enoch, Alta., for the Assembly of First Nations open forum discussion on the federal election this Wednesday.
Alberta AFN Regional Chief Craig Mackinaw said he supports Rock the Indigenous Vote and plans to vote on October 19.
“The government really hasn’t been listening to us, so that’s part of the reason why I’m going to vote,” said Mackinaw.
He agreed with Currie Hall that the Indigenous vote could have an impact on a federal level.
“When you look at what happened in Alberta (with the last provincial election), when people do decide to vote it does make a difference.”
For those who are on the fence about voting, Currie Hall said that Treaty’s are intertwined with Canada’s constitution and voting doesn’t make a nation less sovereign.
“Citizenship was given to us upon the signing of Treaty. So we are dual citizens. We’re sovereign people, we’re treaty peoples, but we’re also Canadian citizens. So really they should see it as an opportunity to change this government that we are engaged with,” she said.
Currie Hall is working with a team of people across Canada to get the message of Rock the Indigenous Vote out.
Last week in Edmonton a flash mob style round dance was held, there are social media and other grassroots initiatives in the works, but ultimately it’s about getting people to the polls.
“Be strategic. Our ancestors were warriors, and we need to be that same type of person today. We’re not willing to compromise. This is an incredible opportunity for us to change the way the world functions for us,” said Currie Hall. “And we’re not rising up in a confrontational way, we’re taking back what is already ours. We’re taking back our place in society and the ownership of the land and the way this government is run.”