GALLUP — Mark Charles would like Native Americans to start thinking outside the box about themselves and their political voice — or lack of voice
— in the United States.
Charles, of Fort Defiance, Ariz., spoke to a small group of community members at UNM-Gallup on Thursday about his idea for the country’s Native
American people to join together to create a “51st Virtual State” for Native people.
A graduate of UCLA, Charles is a public speaker, writer, computer programmer, minister, and consultant on Native American issues. The son of a Navajo
father and a Dutch-American mother from the “Wooden Shoe Clan,” Charles joked about his childhood. “I grew up in a Dutch ghetto just off the
Navajo Reservation,” he said of Rehoboth.
Charles explained he came up with the idea of a 51st virtual state for Native Americans after returning to the Navajo Nation and living for three
years with his family in a traditional hogan in Cross Canyon, Ariz. There’s a lot of time to think, he explained, when you’re living in a
dirt-floor hogan with no running water and no electricity.
After living on the Navajo Nation for the last five years, Charles said he also did a lot of thinking about the last two presidential elections and
why Native Americans don’t have a seat at America’s political table.
“How come I never hear a candidate talk about the Native American vote?” Charles asked. But for Charles, living in an isolated, rural area of an
Indian reservation provided the answer. Although there are more than 500 Native American tribes in the United States, the total population of Native
people is so small that their political voice is marginalized.
Candidates aren’t very interested in communities that have no real voting power.
Even the Navajo Nation, with its large population, isn’t a strong political block, Charles said. “As a Navajo people, as a nation, we can’t vote
together,” he said, noting Navajo voter power is split between Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.
However, if all Native Americans who are enrolled members of a state or federally recognized tribe could become citizens of a 51st virtual state,
Charles explained, they could have a greater political voice. “That would be a mass of voters that candidates can’t ignore,” he said.
More Info may be found on his blog
Reflections from the hogan
While this might be only a pipe dream it maybe the only way to unify the disenfranchised Native peoples... A long way from what one would call a
movment the seed has been planted, only time will tell if it bares fruit?