PARTNER HIGHLIGHT

Meet an SLSV Partner: Kamryn Yanchick, National Congress of American Indians

In this month’s edition of our SLSV Coalition’s Partner Highlights, we are excited to share insights from an influential advocate for Native student voter engagement: Kamryn Yanchick from National Congress of American Indians. Beginning as a student at the University of Oklahoma, she has been deeply involved in mobilizing and empowering Native student voters, first through local voter registration initiatives and later as a professional dedicated to broadening Native American political participation. Join us as we delve into their journey from student activism to a significant role at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and learn more about how you can support their critical work!

How did you first get involved with the #StudentVote?

I got my start in student voter engagement work as a student at the University of Oklahoma when I joined my campus student vote organization, Oklahoma Votes, as a voter registrar for a local community organization called Rock the Native Vote, and later as a Student Advisory Board member with Campus Vote Project. As an active member of the Native student community, I wanted to connect the voter engagement work to my community and better serve Native student voters who are often overlooked. Since graduating, I’ve remained dedicated to serving Native voters, and especially Native students and youth voters, in my personal capacity, and I’ve felt so fortunate to continue this work in my professional capacity as a Wilma Mankiller Fellow with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving the broad interests of tribal governments and communities.

Finish this sentence: In a perfect democracy…

In a perfect democracy, everyone is empowered to exercise their vote to elect representative and accountable elected officials who can enact meaningful policies that serve the best interests of their community. 

What’s your favorite part of your job? The most challenging?

I love connecting with inspiring people across the country who are doing impactful work to advance democracy and make their communities better! It’s such a joy to hear people talk about the issues they’re passionately advocating for and to learn from so many brilliant changemakers.  When working with Native communities, it can be challenging to enter non-Native spaces where basic information about tribal sovereignty or Native culture and history is not known. Even in spaces with prominent elected officials, Native advocates are often tasked with the need to educate others on basic background information before being able to dive into information on the issues at hand. Being a good ally includes making an effort to be educated on the issues that are important to Native people and Tribal Nations. 

How do you support campuses and student voters? 

NCAI has been excited to partner with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium to bring the Native Vote movement to tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) across Indian Country. TCUs emerged during a period of tribal political activism that focused on sovereignty and self-determination, and Tribal Nations created these educational institutions to empower their communities. Now, NCAI, along with tribal, grassroots, and national partners, are working together to carry on this legacy of TCU students as community leaders and Get-Out-the-TCU-Vote.

NCAI has created voter education resources for TCU students and has worked with campus and other partners to reach TCU students and engage them in workshops, civic engagement art contests, and funding and leadership development opportunities.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in getting involved or supporting your work?

For Native students and staff who are working to increase Native student voter participation, my biggest piece of advice would be to trust your expertise. If you see the need for voter engagement work in your community and are inspired to take action, don’t let imposter syndrome get in the way. No one knows your communities and campuses better than you, and you’re not alone. NCAI and other Native and student vote organizations have resources to help facilitate voter engagement efforts, so don’t be afraid to reach out, ask questions, and get involved! 

For allies who want to support Native vote efforts, I encourage you to form partnerships with Native organizations, both on and off campus. To start, you can visit NativeVote.org for more information about Tribal Nations and Native vote organizations in each state. Most importantly, allies need to make sure Native students are not overlooked in both programming and data.

The SLSV Coalition is the national hub and largest nonpartisan network in the United States dedicated to increasing college student voter participation. The Coalition convenes and connects partners, campuses, and students with each other and with resources and programming towards achieving a vision of ensuring that every student has easy and equal access to participate in every election. They use data, relationships, celebration, and easy-to-follow planning structures, to help campus and local leaders register and turnout more student voters every year. The SLSV Coalition is a project of NEO Philanthropy. NEO Philanthropy is strictly nonpartisan, and does not support or oppose any candidate or party.

Join the #StudentVote Movement

We are the national hub and largest nonpartisan network in the United States dedicated to increasing college student voter participation. We are successful and growing stronger everyday because of people like you! 

Sign up today to get involved with the Students Learn Students Vote Coalition!