Georgia Votes: Quannah Chasinghorse
The teen activist on fighting for climate change, preserving her cultural heritage, and why voting is both a right and a privilege.
“The fight for social change has been ingrained in Quannah Chasinghorse’s entire life. The 18-year old climate activist’s mother and aunts have been advocating for political indigenous rights through Native Movement and protection for the Arctic Wild, shaping her relationship with the Alaskan land that surrounds her. “I kind of grew up learning about it and was kind of sitting and listening to them speak. The more I listened, the more I learned. And then the more I felt like I could ask questions.” In 2018 she did a speaking engagement in Anchorage, declaring the urgency needed to tackle climate change. “After that, I got way more passionate, because I started to realize that my voice really did make a difference.
“Since then, Chasinghorse has only become more aware—and more vocal—of the social and environmental issues, observing both the physical and cultural landscape around Alaska and beyond. “I feel like we need more focus on unifying, I feel like we’re so divided. Now, I of course stick to my indigenous sovereignty and my environmental justice, climate justice. But we also need to remember that they’re all very interconnected, these issues all stem from one place. We just need to keep addressing these issues. They’re not being completely ignored, but they’re not being held up to a place where I feel like they need to be.” To that end, voting becomes an important tool in Chasinghorse’s fight for these issues, and it’s not something she takes for granted. “Voting is huge, because my people didn’t have the privilege or the right to vote, not very long ago. And so for me, it’s a privilege.” She states the tight election results from the presidential election as a reason people in Georgia need to get out and vote; the only detriment is apathy. “Even if you don’t really believe in politics, vote for whomever you feel like is right, whoever fits your values the most. For me, I always vote my indigenous values and who I believe in, and how I grew up. It’s about [taking care of] the people, the lands and the waters and the animals, everything that comes with it.
“It’s no surprise that Chasinghorse is among the group of Gen-Z activists that have emerged as the most ardent voices of change. She’s aware of the tides turning in her generation, and their fueled desire to right the wrongs of the past. “What gives me hope is my generation and the younger generations to come. I see a lot of kids younger than me really stepping up and taking the initiative to use [their] voice. And I see how powerful that is, and how it makes me want to use my voice even more.” Those young people will also have a major impact on the Georgia election, and for her the thought of the future is enough of a reason to get out and vote. “What motivates me is thinking about the next coming generation and protecting our ways of life so that my children and my grandchildren will be able to live our ways of life without having to deal with the threats from [the climate].
“The best way forward according to Chasinghorse is a sentiment increasingly shared by other activists and leaders: you don’t have to look too far to make a change. “I feel like people just don’t look into their own community that much, they see what’s going on in other places, and they want to help. But I feel like a good start is within your own community, and reaching out to people.” It’s often easier said than done, and it’s hard not to get swept up in the many conversations occurring across the nation. But it’s a lesson she was reminded of in during her own path towards change. I was fighting to protect the Arctic wildlife refuge, that’s my home. And I was traveling, going out places to advocate for that. And I forgot I have to do a lot of that work within my own community, too. We can’t forget that wherever we are, there’s still a lot of work to be done within your own community.”
If you’d like to vote in-person for this election, just make sure you’re registered and plan out your Election Day plan so you have the time to go and vote on January 5th, 2021. Find your local polling station here, and remember how important it is to exercise your right to vote!
Need a ride to the polls? Plus1Vote is partnering with Uber to provide free rides for the current Georgia senate runoffs! You can use the voucher code “VoteGA” for a free ride on January 5th! Available here.
You can also vote absentee for the Georgia Senate runoff.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot was December 15th.
To do so you can complete this application online (you’ll need your county, state ID number, birth date, and legal name). You can also fill out this PDF and return it to your county board of registrars via mail or email.
Absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, January 5. You can also drop off your ballot at an official county drop box up until 7 p.m. on Election Day. Check your county’s election website for details and dropbox locations.
For more information, head to Plus1Vote for all of your voter questions.