Engage: Wisconsin Native Vote

Native Vote 2014.PNG


Earlier this month, Gov. Tony Evers signed a proclamation declaring July 2019 as State-Tribal Environmental Partnership Awareness Month.

In it, Gov. Evers recognizes the Tribal Nations’ obligation and dedication as stewards of the land and water. It ends with this statement:  “the State of Wisconsin and our tribal partners must observe and respect our Earth and all she provides, and as government partners, collaborate to ensure clean water and rich soils so we can all grow plants that will provide nourishment for our families and economic development for our Nations.”

Read the entire proclamation here.

First Nations organizer Dee Sweet sent a letter to Gov. Evers to thank him for this profound proclamation. She expressed her utmost appreciation and said this action clearly shows his meaningful commitment to support the Tribal Nations of Wisconsin and his dedication to clean water, healthy ecosystems, and sustainable food.

You can her entire thank you letter here.

One of the key parts of Dee’s work is Wisconsin Native Vote. Native Vote has been successful increasing voter turnout in Native communities including Bad River, Red Cliff, Lac du Flambeau, Lac Courte Oreilles, Oneida, Menominee, and Forest County Potawatomi. Read more below.

You can read all about our 2018 program here.

Our work this year will center around building a council made up of members from various tribes who will advise Wisconsin Native Vote, Wisconsin Conservation Voices, and our sister organization, Wisconsin Conservation Voters. We are also focusing on voter education and registration, access to the polls in tribal communities, the 2020 census, and environmental issues that affect our homelands.

It’s heartening to see the State of Wisconsin recognize the Tribal Nations’ role as environmental and spiritual stewards of Wisconsin. And, we’re looking forward to another successful Native Vote campaign in 2020!

native votE HISTORY

In 2011, Wisconsin Conservation Voices worked with the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to stop an open-pit mine proposed near their community in northern Wisconsin. That partnership turned into a highly successful nonpartisan voter engagement project that has since spread to many of Wisconsin’s Native communities. Wisconsin Native Vote works to combat historic voter disenfranchisement and contemporary barriers to voting by educating voters, registering people to vote, and working to improve policies that impact Native communities’ access to the polls.

A very successful 2018

What a year for voter turnout in Wisconsin’s Native American communities!

Thanks to a great team of staff and volunteers, new partners, and financial supporters, Wisconsin Native Vote made a big splash in eight Native communities in 2018, helping to turnout record numbers of voters on Election Day and developing new leaders in Wisconsin’s tribal communities.


Attempts by the legislature and Governor Walker to suppress voter turnout in recent years made our Native Vote program more important than ever. We focused heavily on educating people about how to register to vote, what voting laws had changed, and what forms of ID they needed to bring to the polls.

During Native Vote 2018, we talked with thousands of voters about what motivates them to show up to the polls. We used social media to highlight dozens of community members who were committed to casting their vote on Election Day. And, we created a “buzz” about voting in Native communities, using social media, community events, “Vote for my Future” and “I Vote for the 7th Generation” signs, and even Native Vote-branded cookies.

Social media and earned media were important tools for answering questions about voting and recruiting volunteers. Our Facebook reach during the last three weeks of the election was over 80,000, and during the course of the program, Facebook likes went up over 350 percent. Most importantly, Facebook became a “go to” place to get information about voting. One meme we posted with general information about voting was shared 45 times, including on several tribes’ official pages, by indigenous student groups, and by Native media.

The week before Election Day, we knocked on almost 4,000 doors on eight reservations, entirely with volunteers from the communities. In Bad River, we knocked during trick or treating, a big event in the community, handing out Native Vote cookies, which made our interactions more fun and memorable.


We also worked with partner groups like the ACLU and law students from the Great Lakes Indigenous Law Center at UW-Madison Law School to do election protection at polling places in Native communities.

All that work paid off, with high voter turnout in Native communities across Wisconsin. In fact, in four of our key communities, voter turnout was between 76 percent and 85 percent.

We couldn’t have done it without your support.

Take a comprehensive look at 2018’s Native Vote program.