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Indian People’s Action (IPA)

June 25, 2021

Indian People’s Action (IPA) pictured here is another example of a group that works on voter engagement.  IPA works to empower Indians in Montana to address the social, economic, racial inequities, and environmental injustices that impact their lives. IPA works to achieve its mission by combining organizing, voter engagement, and advocacy while training and developing low-income Native American leaders. They currently have over 200 active members and engage a larger number of community members through their events, trainings, actions and voter engagement activities. Montana is among the top five states with the highest percentage of Native American residents (Alaska (14.3%), Oklahoma (7.5%), New Mexico (9.1%), South Dakota (8.5%), and Montana (6.8%). IPA has prioritized working in Montana’s urban areas and in the towns adjacent to Montana’s seven Indian reservations. The organizations has been actively working to expand civic participation and defend voting rights, particularly for voters on and around the Northern Cheyenne, Crow, and Fort Belknap reservations. Through their voter engagement efforts, the organization learned that one of the causes for low rates of voter registration and participation was a lack of access to voter registration and polling sites. Some reservation residents would have to drive over 100 miles to cast their vote. IPA worked with the Northern Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes to file a voting rights violation lawsuit against the Secretary of State and the three counties that were refusing to establish accessible polling sites. Ultimately, they succeeded in winning a settlement that resulted in the establishment of new polling sites on each of the three reservations. IPA is a member of Montana Organizing Project, a statewide multi-issue organization dedicated to social, economic and racial justice issues – working with faith, labor and community organizations and community members at large.

A number of grantees led intensive leadership development and organizing trainings for Native community members. While there has been little philanthropic investment in this work, organizations in various parts of the country have taken it upon themselves to expand training and leadership opportunities for Native organizers from the Emerging Indigenous Leaders Institute in Nevada to NACDI’s Organizing and Leadership Institute (profiled below), as well as the Advanced Native Organizers Training that has been spearheaded by the Native Organizers Alliance and has drawn participants from different parts of the country.