Picture of Tziavi Melendez with mask that says Native Vote, feathers in background

NV Native Vote is the non-partisan civic engagement arm of Tribal Minds, Inc., principally focused on voter education, voter access, Get Out the Vote efforts, and Native power-building across Nevada.

Tribal Impact and Voter Engagement: Once we get out the vote, we aim to continue to engage Tribal community members in the political process by raising awareness and transparency of the legislative process and inviting community members to get involved. The potential for empowerment and recognition of the power of Indigenous populations in Nevada is right around the corner.

Get Out the Vote: We work to advance the upward mobility of all Indigenous populations by running large-scale canvassing and field operations to inspire the Native Vote in rural Nevada. We set up GOTV field operations in 2020 from Reno to Battle Mountain, from Fallon to Elko, and from Las Vegas to Fort McDermitt. Through working in our communities day after day, we advance the vote in Indian Country.

This is Nevada




Presidential Voting Margin

American Indians or Alaska Native eligible voters

Federally Recognized Tribes, Bands and Colonies

In the 2020 Election, the presidential voting margin was 33,596 - far below the number of eligible American Indians and Alaska Natives.

There are more than 60,000 eligible voters in Indian Country in Nevada.

There are 27 Nations of Nevada Natives in the Battle-born state.

Nevada has the sixth-largest Native population in the nation. In other words, the Native Vote - when activated and in force - is a powerful enough bloc to swing any election in Nevada.

What we learned the hard way

While we worked with other local and national organizations, the boots-on-the-ground grassroots were Nevadan.

In 2020, staff, canvassers and field organizers for Tribal Minds worked to turn out the Native Vote in our communities in record numbers.

Through our work, American Indians turned out to vote at a rate that was 15% higher than in 2016.

To date, Tribal Minds, Inc. conducted the largest Native voter outreach initiative in the history of Nevada.

According to All Voting is Local, the Native Vote turned out largely through mail-in voting (56%). About a third of Native voters voted early (31%) and thirteen percent (13%) voted in person on election day. Most importantly, the Native Vote increased disproportionately. Turnout among the general electorate saw an increase from 76.83% turnout among active voters in 2016 to 77.26% turnout among active voters in 2020 - less than one percent increase overall. In comparison, Native American communities turned out at 15% higher rates than 2016. Many barriers exist. They can be divided into two problems: barriers to voter registration and dearth of polling locations. These, combined, disenfranchise Indigenous voters.

Nevadans prefer to register to vote through automatic voter registration or through the secretary of state’s voter registration website. However, according to a 2018 FCC report, nearly half of households on rural Tribal lands lack adequate internet access. Given that 70% of Native voters in Nevada live in rural areas, this means that broadband access is a major problem for the Native Vote in the Battle-born State. Assuming a Native voter has registered to vote, they face even more hurdles to cast their ballot. Large parts of Indian Country are structurally disenfranchised. Out of twenty-five reservations analyzed in Nevada, four lacked Election Day polling places within a thirty-minute drive and six lacked an early voting polling place within a 30-minute drive in 2020.

As the Native American Rights Fund described it, the structural disenfranchisement that rural Native voters face to cast their ballots is a “tyranny of distance.” In order to be heard in any election, to reach a polling location, Natives must drive farther and go further than others in Nevada. Even having adequate internet access does not guarantee that Indigenous people are able to register. Even though tribal IDs are issued by Tribes as proof of enrollment and are valid identification cards, they are not accepted by the secretary of state’s online voter registration website. In other words, nearly half of all Native eligible voters are barred from registering to vote as easily as the general electorate. And many households that do have internet access are still unable to use that internet access to register to vote online. They are barred from their right to vote.

For people with internet access, the secretary of state must include Tribal IDs as an accepted proof of identity when registering to vote on their online voter registration website. Tribal IDs are federally recognized identification cards and a convenient way to verify identity, especially for voters who do not drive. For those on Tribal lands without internet access, having physical polling locations where they can register to vote is vital. County clerks should be held accountable to work with tribal governments within their county to establish polling locations and ballot drop boxes.

Additionally, the secretary of state should also keep an updated list of Tribal governments already eligible for a polling place and add Tribes that apply for polling locations. This list should be kept on the secretary of state’s public website to create transparency and accountability to Nevada Native communities. Furthermore, the secretary of state should update the Tribal request form. The current polling request form allows Nevada’s Tribes to request only an early-voting or Election Day polling location; there is no option to apply for both. Also, there are no guaranteed days given for an early-voting location or the guarantee for a ballot drop box and/or ballot drop-off location.

This would also allow Tribes and advocates to identify gaps in coverage for rural communities and work to fill them before it’s too late to register. Increasing voter registration access is essential to ensuring the freedom to vote for all eligible voters. Expanding registration access in the Nevada Native American community would expand the power and voice of the community, which has for too long gone ignored. While voting will not solve every issue, it is the right of every eligible American voter to have access to voter registration and voting. While the community saw historic voter turnout in 2020, Nevada’s election officials can increase Native American voting access by taking the actions we have laid out.

We know that these changes need to be made. We also know that direct organizing in Indigenous communities is how we overcome the numerous barriers that the Native Vote faces. Only through deep grassroots organizing like that which we spearheaded in 2020 can the power of the Native Vote be unleashed and the right to vote won by Nevada Natives.

Progress Report: 2020

Polling Location Access

In 2020, Tribal Minds, Inc. employed a variety of methods to ensure more reservations than ever before had access to a polling location. Methods included:

  • Direct coordination with Tribal governments
  • Phonebanks
  • Letter-writing campaigns & op-ed publications
  • One-on-ones with elected leaders, County Clerks, & the Secretary of State's Office
  • Media communications
  • Social Media Campaigns
  • Through these efforts, we were able to overcome the tyranny in distance and advocate for more than double the number of reservations with access to polling locations and drop boxes during both Early Vote and Election Day.

    We are also in communication with the Native American Right Fund to support a federal amendment to the Native American Voting Rights Act that can potentially expand polling locations to every reservation across the country.

    Nevada Indian Reservations in 2020 w/ Polling Locations/Early Vote/Drop Boxes

    Nevada Indian Reservations, Pre-2020 w/ Polling Locations/Early Vote

    Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (Washoe) (P)(EV)

    Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (Washoe) (P)(EV)(DB)

    Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (Washoe, Storey, & Lyon) (P)(EV)

    Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (Washoe, Storey, & Lyon) (P)(EV)(DB)

    Walker River Paiute Tribe (Mineral, Churchill, & Lyon) (P)(EV)(DB)

    Walker River Paiute Tribe (Mineral, Churchill, & Lyon) (P)(EV)

    Duckwater Shoshone Tribe (Nye) (P)(EV)(DB)

    Ft. McDermitt Paiute & Shoshone Tribe (Humbolt) (EV)(DB)

    Moapa Band of Paiutes (Clark) (EV)(DB)

    Yerington Paiute Tribe (Lyon) (P)(EV)(DB)

    Community Organizing

    In 2020, Tribal Minds was active in hosting events aimed at voter turnout and civic engagement in seventeen Native communities in Nevada. Operations started in Hungry Valley, where Tribal Minds Inc. was founded, and expanded across the rurals in both Northern and Southern Nevada. Most communities in which civic engagement occurred had never been organized. Communities in which Tribal Minds hosted Early Voting and Election Day events included:

    Nevada Indian Reservations & Communities that Tribal Minds Organized in 2020

    Hungry Valley (Reno-Sparks Indian Colony)

    Dresslerville (Washoe Tribe)

    Reno Colony (Reno-Sparks Indian Colony)

    Carson Colony (Washoe Tribe)

    Duck Valley Indian Reservation

    Wadsworth (Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe)

    Yomba Shoshone Tribe

    Nixon (Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe)

    Las Vegas Band of Southern Paiutes

    Sutcliff (Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe)

    Battle Mountain Band (Te-Moak Tribe)

    Walker River Paiute Tribe

    Yerington Paiute Tribe

    Elko Band (Te-Moak Tribe)

    Moapa Band of Southern Paiutes (Clark)

    Duckwater Shoshone Tribe

    Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe

    During the Get Out the Vote process, Tribal Minds implemented "NV Native Vote" field organizers and canvassers to expand our internal network and establish contact information. We were able to utilize the contact information that was to be uploaded to the “National” Native Voter Activation Network, to build the infrastructure alongside with several national organizations. NV Native Vote organizers also hosted wide-scale events aimed to boost involvement across all of the urban and rural Tribal communities, including giveaways of PPE and prizes celebrating the culture of Native civic engagement. All giveaways were directly associated with the development of the "National" Native Voter Activation Network. Voting and Registering to Vote were never a prerequisite to participate in our programming: everything was given away for free to increase voter education and awareness, regardless of age, race, political affiliation, or ideologies.

    Beyond the field department, Tribal Minds also spearheaded a variety of new communications strategies to target Native voters. One of the greatest forms of racism facing Indigenous people is erasure, practiced through the continued invisibility of our communities. Thus, one of our main objectives was to create visibility for Tribes and the Native Vote in all elections -- not just the general election. We brought on a team of digital creators to develop imagery, videos, and live feeds, partnering with the Journalism Department of the University of Nevada, Reno for the production of short films on the Native Vote.

    We also partnered with All Voting is Local to place eight billboards in high-traffic areas across the state showcasing images of prominent local Tribal leaders and messaging that specified “Elevate Native Voices” and “Register to Vote.” Examples of Voter Registration Billboards that All Voting is Local and Tribal Minds, Inc. staged all across Nevada to increase Native turn out:

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Where is Tribal Minds, Inc. based?

    Where do you operate?

    We are a statewide Native-led nonprofit that aims to empower Tribal spaces in rural and urban Nevada. Our focus is on remote Indian reservations that often get overlooked and underfunded. We have strong alliances with most Tribes of Nevada, grassroots organizers, and other in-state leaders that work to bring attention to the Tribal needs of the Great Basin. When we support the strengthening of Tribal sovereignty, we all win. If it's in Nevada, it's our business!

    Tribal Minds, Inc. originated on the Hungry Valley Indian Reservation, a Tribal Community of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. Currently, we are based in Reno, Nevada as we serve Tribal communities across the state. We understand Reno to be a center where Tribal people across the Great Basin work, live, find community, and find each other.

    What Organizations or Institutions are you willing to work with?

    Who do you provide services to?

    Tribal Minds is a fiscally-sponsored organization that is excited to work with anyone who wants to see the advancement of the Indigenous People of Nevada. We aim to collaborate with institutions that energetically align with our mission and purpose. We wish to build relationships that are prosperous and healthy and center the People and the Land. So if you have a program or project in mind, let’s make something happen.

    At Tribal Minds, no one will be turned away, but we prioritize those in the greatest need first and foremost. The organization aims to ensure our Tribal communities receive opportunities not often afforded to them. As a result, we accrue higher buy-in rates and fulfill a more inclusive vision by diversifying our programming. We place a strong emphasis on uplifting the BIPOC communities of Nevada and all other marginalized individuals. Because we understand that we are all relations: when we help others, we help ourselves!