Image: A poster on University of Colorado Denver Professor Glenn Morris’ door.


While Native Americans are United States citizens, they are also considered part of the Fourth World – the Earth’s often invisible indigenous peoples. In a way, Native Americans don’t have much voice in the United States. That’s largely because the “one person, one vote” form of democracy doesn’t always adequately reflect the ideas of the aboriginal people who didn’t really give consent to become part of the United States. But in 2008, Native America seems excited about the US elections more than ever.


I interview Prof. Glenn Morris, a long-time American Indian Movement (AIM) activist and director of the Fourth World Center at the University of Colorado Denver a day after the election.


Morris, who received his law degree from Harvard several years before president-elect Barack Obama did, seems cautiously excited about the next leader of the United States. The indigenous professor says he is happy that he has been proven wrong about his prediction that racism wouldn’t let Obama get elected. He’s worried, though, about false perception of overcoming racism.


Image: Prof. Glenn Morris at the Fourth World Center (University of Colorado)

“My concern has been the tendency to suggest that Obama’s election demonstrates a post-racial era. The danger of defining race as black and white allows the United States to ignore the country’s original sin – the Doctrine of Discovery.” Morris says that racism will be prevalent until the country “looks at the foundational injustice in the creation” of the United States, with a reference to the genocide against Native Americans.



Image: Obama in an indigenous Kenyan dress


The professor says that there are different Indian voices in the elections. But the Navajo nation, explains Morris, had a role in delivering Mexico (and almost Arizona) for Obama. And while the restless activist says he’s excited about Obama’s idea to have a presidential adviser on Native American issues, he hopes that “Native participation will translate into policy.” In Canada, for instance, the federal government often makes decisions affecting aboriginal communities by consulting with First Nations. Morris thinks that consent, not consultation, should be the level of such communication.


Was the Native vote numerically or symbolically important for Barack Obama? Morris says Obama’s outreach to Americans Indians was “partly personal, partly ideological, and partly tactical.”

Obama “may not understand [Native American issues] entirely,” says Glenn Morris, but America’s 44th president seems the only leader so far “who may kind of get it.”