Jephrey Valliere | Racine & Lac du Flambeau, WI
I was working for Amazon down in Kenosha for a little bit, but then moved back up North where I helped my dad with canoe contracts. My dad builds traditional Ojibwe birchbark canoes and I’ve helped him with quite a few of them. This year he was named a traditional folk arts fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts. I’ve learned a lot from him. When I’m not up North, I stay at my mom’s house in Racine.
In 2018, I voted in person, but this will be my first national election. I remember when I was eighteen, my mom made it a point to teach me how to vote and what it means to vote. So I had the opportunity to vote for some of my city council members in Racine. This time, with Covid, I don’t want to vote in person because I just don’t want to handle any other equipment people have touched right now. It’s best to not take that risk. I’m trying to keep Covid safe. I found out how to vote absentee by going online and typing in “absentee ballot.” Earlier today I was working on my mail-in ballot, getting a photocopy of my ID and all those things you need to get together to make sure they know it’s me who is actually voting. I looked it over at least three times to be sure I had done all the steps.
I think it’s our civic duty to vote as American citizens—it gives you a chance as an individual to make your voice heard. Hopefully, I can help my country by picking someone with values I can align myself with.
The first thing I look at is the character of the candidates, what they’ve done in the past, and how they carry themselves in situations with others. I especially pay attention to communication—a leader needs to be able to communicate what plans he or she has and how those plans are going to be implemented. And, on top of that, what I’ve looked for is how their interpersonal relationships are and what their values are. There’s a lot of humanity involved in it. People aren’t just numbers—they’re actually living, breathing human beings. To be in charge of that many people, you need to have a little bit of compassion. So, that’s what I’ve looked for.
In the past, we were kind of screwed over by the American government and the way it operates. Nowadays, as contemporary Indigenous people, we must learn how to play the game too, and learn the strategies we need to make our world better. I believe our tribal core values would help the U.S. nation in the future, especially with conservation of resources.
I believe everyone should go out and vote. I’m not full-hearted with either of the two parties, but I can pick the best of two bads. I’d like to encourage young adults to understand that you have a voice too. That is how you express yourself politically—by voting. If not us, then who will? As young people coming of age, this is something we have to do as adults.
Jephrey’s story was produced by Carol Amour and is part of our New Voters Series. The new voter series was funded by the ‘Why It Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation’ initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.