Debbie Nez-Manuel

“She Invigorates…”

A few days ago I watched Wind River a second time. The first was in Scottsdale on Camelback and Scottsdale road. Far removed from the rural and remote Arizona where women are vulnerable for going missing. Why? So many reasons like predators preying on others who are oppressed or subject to mistreatment but none more real than a shortage of resources for educational programs for perpetrators, law enforcement, or federal response services. 

Women going missing on a national level is big news when they are blond and blue-eyed but women who are brown, have indigenous features, or lack the modern barbie profile continue to cover bulletin boards at the local community center. While most will give gentle reminders to focus on what life is, there is a part of me that continues to recognize families continue to wait into the night for loved ones to return home. Many of these family members are children or an elderly mother who can never forget the moment she held her daughter in her arms for the first time. 

As a child survivor of my mother’s senseless death. I recognize the shortages of resources, the depth of racism in border towns, and the inept response of federal policies to protect vulnerable populations in Indian Country. I find myself in moments of hopelessness or fatigue when I think about gaps in our systems. Gaps that go unnoticed and continue to remain dark or cold. 

That dark and cold feeling fueled me to more in 2019. It was when I heard HR Jennifer Jermaine took the baton from HR Wenona Benally. That baton represented much more. It represented the warmth we needed in the cold dark systemic gap. It was then that I committed to stepping up. I asked myself, “What could I do differently?” From that moment, I told myself, “First of all, I can stop watching from the sidelines. I can get involved. I can start talking. I can say something – so I did.” 

In the spring of 2019, I worked along our SHEROES and led a group of women to join together. Our calling, much like being in the ceremony, was to sit side by side in the gallery to attend committee hearings, to have conversations with legislators about women we knew. This ceremony happened in the lobby, in passing, in the stairwell, on the lawn, in the lobby – our job was to ensure they all heard ‘her’ story. The effort grew and eventually legislation passed 60-0. Yes, we took a deep sigh even though we knew it was only the beginning. So much more is expected to happen. But just so we are clear, do you know where it started? It started with a decision to VOTE. Not the vote in the house or the senate or even the passing at the Governor’s office. It started with a  VOTE for many and a particular few… 

In 2016, HR Wenona Benally was voted in by her constituents in LD7. 

In 2018: 

  • HR Jennifer Jermaine was voted in by her constituents in LD18
  • HR Arlando Teller was voted in by his constituents in LD7. 
  • HR Myron Tsosie was voted in by his constituents in LD7
  • Senator Peshlakai was voted in by his constituents in LD7
  • Senator Sally Gonzalez was voted in by her constituents in LD3
  • Senator Victoria Steele was voted in by her constituents in LD9 

What does this all mean? 

  • This means your time in the long lines in 2018 was worth every moment. 
  • This means choosing to bring along your friend to the polls was the right thing to do.
  • This means hitchhiking to the polls was worth standing along that road. 
  • This means sitting in that packed ride was not too bad after all.
  • This means borrowing that $30 bucks for gas made a difference. 
  • This means that voting is worth it this year.
  • This means that your voice does get heard. 
  • This means your voice does count. 

Voting for any of these candidates means they are ready to stand up and vote green for legislative bills you bring forward. They are candidates who will organize and build coalitions for things that matter. This is how change begins in Indian Country. Electing candidates is one of the most important tasks of the next 18 days. 

Are you with me? Are you with our children? Are you with ‘her’ the one who can not ever make it to the ballot box? 

We have 18 more days to elect people who will stand up for you, me, and our children.  Let us mobilize to the ballot box to open up more opportunities to hear more laws passed like House Bill #2570.