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Local leaders propose plan to give Native Americans a better voice in politics

SALT LAKE CITY — Native American leaders joined with Democrats yesterday to present a plan to the House that would give tribal leaders a voice in Utah politics.

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Braidan Weeks, Communications Coordinator for Utah Diné Bikéyah says they’ve been working on the idea for a while with the Utah Tribal Leaders Association and Utah League of Native American Voters. After the controversy over the Bears Ears National Monument, Weeks said they knew it was time to ask for more voice in Utah government.

“They just don’t hear about these issues.”

The proposals ask that the Division of Indian Affairs is elevated to a cabinet position, giving Native Americans better access to the governor. The second proposal asks for a Joint Standing Committee on Indian affairs in the Legislature so representatives know when native Americans have a problem.

“It would send a message to natives throughout the state that you can participate and you can engage,” Weeks said.

Weeks said kids on reservation land out near the Cedar Mountains are currently riding on the bus for an hour an a half to get to school. Another high school is just forty minutes away, but Weeks said they can’t attend because it’s in another county.

“[Legislators] just don’t hear about these issues,” Weeks said, adding that legislators have shown warm support for their proposals so far.

Weeks says making these changes will tell the thousands of Native Americans in Utah they have a voice.

Watch the press conference below: