Articles

An Advocate Within

Advice from a Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Member Working in Congress About Getting Involved and Advocating for Your People

To influence policies that impact our people and lands, it’s important that Native youth learn how to be effective advocates. To gather more information about this important topic, I spoke with Bobby Ahern- a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and Legislative Assistant for Senator Ron Wyden.

Watch our full conversation in the video.

Can you talk about how you got involved in politics?

I was born and raised in central Oregon. I got my introduction to politics working for my tribe. I saw how tribal government works. It also gave me an opportunity to see how my tribe communicates with elected officials in Washington D.C.

When I was wrapping up college, I found a fellowship that was offered to Native American youth in the Northwest, the Hatfield Fellowship. This fellowship gave me the opportunity to work in D.C. in a congressional office for almost a year. It was incredible.

What mentors have helped you along the way?

When I moved to D.C. one influential mentor was another tribal member from Warm Springs. He was working for the tribe and advocating to Congress. We ended up having a meeting together, and it sparked a good relationship.

Can you talk about your job?

I work on policy related to the environment and natural resources for Senator Wyden. I also handle tribal policy for the office… Often you run into people in Congress who may not have tribes in their states or in the districts they represent. With everything going on today, I think it’s always important to make sure that tribal communities aren’t overlooked and that they’re part of the conversation.

What does passing a law actually look like?

One of the first things we do is talk to the people who will be impacted the most by the law. If a community, say, has old or failing infrastructure or doesn’t have access to clean water, the federal government has an opportunity to support changing those things. You can also make a difference by talking to people in your state or district, to identify things that are really successful already and you can aim to make them even better or expand on them. Tribes do a lot of good work already.

Next you write a bill [a possible law]. Then, the bill is “introduced” and sent to a Congressional committee. Each committee focuses on particular issues. For example, my boss, Senator Wyden is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which focuses on things like taxes, healthcare, and trade. He also sits on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

When a bill is with a committee, if you want to be a good advocate, call or write to the Senators on that committee.

Once you convince the group of Senators on the committee to support your bill, it goes to all 100 Senators to vote on. When this happens, it’s a good time to advocate to your Senators about the bill.

What do you recommend for people who want to get involved in politics but can’t travel to D.C.?

The best thing you can do is get involved locally. I worked for my tribe. The office I worked in was 10 minutes away from where I grew up. You don’t have to move across the country to make a difference. Every Senator and member of Congress has offices across the state they represent.

Find out where your elected officials’ offices are. Write them letters and make phone calls. All offices keep track of who calls, who writes in, and what issues the caller or writer cares about. The more people who do that, the more we pay attention to it and try to do something about it.

One final question, since we all know that self-care is extremely important. How do you tend to your own wellness?

Self-care is extremely important. I really try to prioritize the things I care about and hobbies I have. I like basketball, so I make time to play or shoot baskets on the weekend or ride my bike or do something active.

I also talk with people I trust about everything that’s going on – what’s been fun, what’s been difficult, or even just how I’ve been feeling.

Want to learn more about getting involved in advocacy?

Check out:

Interviewer: Abaki Beck (Blackfeet and Red River Metis) is a freelance writer and public health researcher passionate about health equity in Native communities, particularly for justice-involved community members. She earned her Master’s in Public Health in 2020 and grew up in Montana.

I Don’t Have Health Insurance – Now What?

There are plenty of reasons why you might not have health insurance....

Tips for Saving

So, you’re thinking about getting that car you’ve been eyeing, or you...

Jowun / Self-Care For Me

How to Stay Safe When Traveling

Whether you’re going somewhere a couple of hours away or outside the...

How to Use Ride Sharing Services Safely

Rideshare services, like Uber and Lyft, are good options when walking or...

Isis / School Stressors

Opening a Bank Account

Are you starting your first job? Going to college soon? Or just...

Real Talk About Getting What You Need From Your Boo

In a healthy relationship, we should be appreciated, listened to, and have...

#Indigilove Recap Video

When and How to Quit a Job

If you have a job, you’ve probably dreaded going in at least...

Staying Balanced in College

Keeping a healthy balance between life, school, and work is what everyone...

WRN Ambassadors

Represent We R Native

How to Navigate Health Insurance

Medical visits and procedures, like x-rays, can be expensive. That is why...

PSA This Relationship Advice is Actually Genius

Relationships – whether they are with our family members, friends, or significant...

Breaking the Statistics

Spokane area Indian youth showing how they’re breaking statistics.  

How to Pick the Right College For You

Deciding to go to college is a big decision and one that...

How to Lease Your First Apartment

6 Tips for Renting Your First Apartment  On the lookout for your...

Vote Indian Vote

Students from Salish Kootenai College, Pablo, Montana promote the Native American Vote.

How to Expand Your Networks

Have you ever heard the saying, “It doesn’t matter what you know,...

Native Women Just Can’t Anymore

Sex can be fun and empowering. However, some of us – especially...

Gangs

Nonfiction film about the gang crisis in Indian Country.  

Tips to Protect Yourself from COVID-19

The spread of COVID-19 in our state, threatens our elders, our families,...

Youth Activism

How to get started Youth have powerful voices, and those same voices...

Homelessness

Watch Elmer helping a homeless friend during tough times.  Created by Menominee...

Gratitude And Their Influence On Your Happiness

Being grateful—or having gratitude—for the past can positively affect your future. You...

How Does a Person Become Resilient?

A number of factors contribute to a person’s ability to be resilient...

I Strengthen My Nation – Extended

People notice your actions. You have influence. Think about it. What someone...

Managing Expectations

Everyone goes through times when they feel pressure to achieve certain goals,...

Problem Solving

Problems are a normal part of life. You can think of them...

I Strengthen My Nation – PSA

That one choice strengthens you, strengthens others, and strengthens your Nation.

Putting Your Goals Into Action

Once you’ve set your goals and targets the next step is to...

Setting the Record Straight About Depression

Here are some common myths, and the facts behind them, about depression:...

Choices

Life choices come at you fast. The choices you make today, affect...

Time Management

Meeting deadlines for work and school can sometimes seem overwhelming. Managing your...

Write a Resume That Will Make You Shine

Writing a resume that makes you stand out doesn’t have to be...

Life Tips

  Run Breath Drink. Positive or negative decisions you make that will...

A Career in the STEM Field

Are you thinking about a career in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering,...

Erika Ramirez

My experience at the NIHB Native Youth Health Summit, was one of...

College Advice

Stephanie Spearing (Southern Cheyenne from Oklahoma) gives advice about financial aid and...

Financial Aid – Getting Money For College

Going to college can be expensive, but financial aid and scholarships can...

Indigenous Story Studio

Indigenous Story Studio creates illustrations, posters, video and comic books on health...

Life Transitions-to adulthood

Three boys learn an important life lesson in Sterlin Harjo (Creek/Seminole) short...

Ill Mind of Ghost Dog: The Beginning

Hello my fellow Native and non-Native brethren’s. My name is Thomas Lee...

iLL Mind Of Ghost Dog: The Most Dangerous Native

As you ladies and gents read the title of my blog, “The...

College Advice

James Dakota (Sauk-Suiattle), a student at Northwest Indian College, shares what he’s...

Imelda Martina Sanchez

I am Imelda Martina Sanchez. I am a Native and Mexican American...

Kogee Clark

I would like to thank you all for the opportunity to share...

Overcoming Shyness

Tlingit pride: Vanessa shares how she overcame shyness.

Run for it!

Have you ever considered running for a tribal office or position? As...

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

Can talking on a cell phone cause more accidents than drunk driving?...

College Advice

Jeannette (Blackfeet Nation), a student at Portland State University, shares how she...

The National Native American Youth Initiative

Preparing Future Native Physicians and Researchers For many students, summer is a...

The Native Youth Vote: You Count!

Like many high school seniors this time of year I find myself...

Spiritual Well-being

Steven offers some advice and encourages us to be positive…each day

Why It’s Important to Vote

Did you know Indians could still not vote in New Mexico and...

Do Grades Matter?

Do my grades matter when I’m a freshman? Erika, Yankton Sioux, talks...

Drugs & Alcohol – Teen Panel

This is a video featuring two youth who share their stories about...

Feeling Good: Optimism

Sam Fathallah on being optimistic and finding help within your friends.

I don’t think I’m fully female. I feel only partly female. Does this make me two-spirited? I am also on the asexual and aromantic spectrums

see answer

Find Us

Contest

An Advocate Within

Follow Us

Enter Phone Number to Subscribe:

Msg & Data Rates May Apply.
Text STOP to opt out. No purchase necessary.
Expect 4 msgs/mo.Terms and Conditions

Menu