NUIFC News Release: Urban American Indians set to play a significant role in the 2018 election season

September 24, 2018


Janeen Comenote, Executive Director, National Urban Indian Family Coalition, 206-551-9933

William Miller, Communications Coordinator, National Urban Indian Family Coalition, 971-288-7783


Urban American Indians set to play a significant role in the 2018 election season

 National Urban Indian Family Coalition receives funding from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation to launch the first-ever national, Urban American Indian civic engagement initiative.

 SEATTLE, WA — With six weeks until the 2018 election day, the National Urban Indian Family Coalition (NUIFC) is launching a national voter and civic engagement initiative that will target 16 urban American Indian communities across the country. This ambitious endeavor is critical for Urban American Indians, which make up over 65% of the total American Indian and Alaska Native population in the U.S., but who are often not included or engaged in “get out of vote” and traditional civic engagement programs. With seed funding from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, NUIFC is set to invest the funding directly into 17 Urban Indian organizations in 16 states across the country. The organizations identified for this initiative have a history of effectively serving their respective Native communities with a range of culturally-responsive services and resources.

“The Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA Family Center) has made an intentional investment in building the capacity of our civic and voter engagement programs over the past few years, and they’ve paid huge dividends. Our Native community is well positioned when it comes to advocating for public investment in addressing socio-economic disparities experienced by our children, family, and elders," says Paul Lumley (Yakama Nation), Executive Director of the NAYA Family Center. “We welcome this additional investment from NUIFC and looking forward to sharing and learning best practices with other Urban Indian organizations.”

As Urban American Indian communities continue to grow, they become increasingly important voting blocks for local, state, and national elections. While this population is often overlooked, the NUIFC hopes this investment will be just the beginning of a long-term effort to build capacity and develop a network of organizations across the country that can coordinate and mobilize hundreds of thousands of voters, engage American Indians and Alaska Natives as advocates in civic life, and activate an increasingly powerful political voice in urban communities across the country. 

“At the local level, elections are often won by a few thousand or even a few hundred votes, in cities with Native populations, each vote is critical and Native people can absolutely make a difference in those elections. Seeing ourselves reflected, active, and engaged in the body politic in the United States is immeasurably important, we are making the invisible visible," said Janeen Comenote, Executive Director of NUIFC. “In our 15-year history of observing urban American Indian communities, those communities who have civically engaged Native constituencies tend to thrive in the civic landscape of America. These organizations are the lifelines for culture, services, and community in the cities in which they live.”

The investment from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation comes at an incredibly important time, with Urban American Indian organizations and communities seeing growing challenges and cuts to funding and programs they rely upon for education, workforce development, and healthcare. Coincidently, this year there are more Native Americans than ever before running for elected office at all levels of the government across the country. The “Native Wave” sees over 158 Native candidates running for local, state, and national office with 55 of those candidates being Native women. Idaho has the opportunity to elect the first ever Native American, woman governor; Minnesota will elect its first Native American Lieutenant Governor, regardless of which party wins – Peggy Flanagan, Democrat, and Donna Bergstorm (Republican); and both Albuquerque and Kansas City could elect the first ever Native women to Congress in Deb Halaand and Sharice Davids respectively.

With a relatively short-timeline, each grantee organization has designed and developed their own unique civic and voter engagement strategies that reflect the capacity and sophistication of their programs and resonate with their respective Urban American Indian community and with other vulnerable communities of color. Here’s a list of the organizations and the locations that will be participating in this inaugural initiative:

  • Americans for Indian Opportunity – Albuquerque, NM 

  • American Indian Center of Chicago – Chicago, IL

  • American Indian Center of Indiana – Indianapolis, IN

  • American Indians in Texas Spanish Colonial Missions – San Antonio, TX

  • American Indian OIC – Minneapolis, MN

  • Chief Seattle Club – Seattle, WA

  • Denver Indian Center – Denver, CO

  • First Alaskans Institute – Anchorage, AK

  • Kansas City Indian Center – Kansas City, MO

  • Las Vegas Indian Center – Las Vegas, NV

  • Native American Youth and Family Center – Portland, OR

  • Nez Perce Tribe – Lapwai, ID

  • Oklahoma City Indian Clinic – Oklahoma City, OK

  • Phoenix Indian Center – Phoenix, AZ

  • Sacred Pipe Resource Center – Bismarck, ND

  • Native American Development Center – Bismarck, ND

  • The Native Project – Spokane, WA

Each of the organizations will receive a range of funding, depending upon their size and capacity, and work toward shared metrics aimed at increasing voter registration, engagement, and turnout. NUIFC is cultivating support for this initiative with hopes of expanding funding sources and increase investments in the participating organizations. 

National Urban Indian Family Coalition

The mission of the National Urban Indian Family Coalition is to elevate a national voice and sustain Indigenous values and culture through a strong network of urban Indian organizations. 

We accomplish this by conducting research, facilitating dialogue and creating opportunities to better understand the barriers, issues, and opportunities facing urban American Indian families. Ultimately, we seek to strengthen the voices of urban American Indian peoples and their access to resources. By including NUIFC members in these critical conversations and including Urban Indian issues in the national dialogue regarding Native America, we ensure that the concerns of our families are addressed and that urban issues are included in national policy work.