Ma'iingan Wolf Garvin | Madison, WI
My name has definitely made me very conscious of my Native identity, and I’ve had to learn to answer questions about it over the years. For example, when I was little, I was in a dance group, and the teacher asked, “Can I just call you Megan? I’m never going to get it right.” At first, I thought it was so cool because there was another girl in the class named Megan, and I had never been in a setting with somebody else where our names could get mixed up. When I told my mom about it, she said, “Ma’iingan, no. She can learn to say your name.” So, I Iearned how to get comfortable talking to people who might be a little bit ignorant and not understand. It has improved my patience and has made me more conscious of the way that I move in the world and acknowledge other people’s identities.
The end of this past school year during Covid was such a blur—nothing felt real. Graduating and voting were the two biggest things that kind of jolted me into realizing I have to continue with my plans. I’m technically an adult! I already voted. The drop-off spot was near my house. I got to put my ballot in the box while barefoot, turn around, and walk 30 feet back into my house. Afterwards, I was like “Woah, I did that!” It’s so suited for our generation that this is an election year, because we’ve had to deal with so many world changes. I’m glad that so many young people are voting right now. I’m glad to be part of it. We’re actually doing something!
I went to East High School, and we have a reputation for advocacy. There has been a walkout or a march down East Washington to the State Capitol every year. I was able to talk at the youth-led Climate March last year. At first, I was super nervous, but I have been taught that everything around us has a spirit and a life form. Everything in nature is to be respected. I think that’s such an important way of thinking about the world, especially when you look at how we’re treating it right now, and how much time we have left to act on it. I was slowly breathing and getting through my speech, thinking I didn’t have any reason to feel insecure because I’m talking about something that needs to be talked about. It made me realize I don’t need to be insecure about speaking up about this planet that gives us life. Even if you don’t feel like you’re going to be affected by this election as much as other people, voting takes so little time and will make change for the people it matters most to. A lot of people are less than pleased with our options this election. I get it, but I think just putting the candidates aside and acknowledging that the issues are so much bigger is super important.
I’ve been writing in my college applications that I’d really love to go into journalism. Knowledge is power, and just being aware of issues is the best way to start on them. There are so many things, especially in Native communities, that people just don’t know about, because nobody is talking about them. You can always keep pushing for the things that you want, and maybe it’ll never be perfect, but you can keep putting pressure on the right places to make change happen. And I see things getting better. I wouldn’t call myself an optimist, but I truly see things continuing to get better, even if it is really slowly.
This story was produced by Esteban Touma and is part of our new voter 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.