Mark Charles: A 51st state for Native Americans
The right to vote and have representation is a fundamental American right and in the early history of our country that right was based on land ownership. At one point, Native Americans resided on a majority of the land and accounted for a majority of the population. But that began to change soon after the first European immigrants arrived. Native Americans were quickly either exterminated or moved to the boarders of society and marginalized. And that is where most of us live today.

You will find pockets of Native Americans all throughout the country. And if you look hard enough you will find reservations tucked away in the corners of many states. We account for around 1% of the population and are virtually nonexistent in the structures of power. We have been a ward of Congress and do not even have an embassy or a formal relationship with the US government. For years we were drafted and forced to fight in the wars of this country, but we did not even have the right to vote. Even after we were given the right to vote, our numbers were so small and we were so marginalized and separated that no unified voice could be heard. Reservations had been created but representation was not allowed.

I would like to propose that a new action be taken; one which I believe will level the playing field to an even greater extent. I propose that a virtual Native American state be created. This virtual state will function primarily as a means to give Native Americans a voice in the national structures of power that currently exist. Each member of every federally recognized tribe will, for national elections and for the US Congress and Senate, vote and be represented as a virtual Native American state. Based on the population, 2-5 votes will be added to the Electoral College, 2-5 members will be added to the US House of Representatives and 2 members will be added to the Senate. Also a 51st star and a 14th stripe should be added to the flag.

I believe these institutional and constitutional corrections will allow the Native American population an equal voice within the structures of power and in the representation of our lands. No longer will Congress or the President be able to quietly cut funding from health care and social services, which were guaranteed in the treaties that were signed. No longer will Native American issues (many of which are unique from the rest of the country) be ignored by Presidential candidates. And no longer will Native Americans be forced to be a ward of congress and at the mercy of the state governments and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. For we will be a part of congress and the senate, and will have our own voice in the legislative agenda of this country and in the representation of our lands and our people.

If you have any thoughts, feedback or comments on this article I would appreciate hearing from you on my blog (

Related Stories:
Mark Charles: When I grow up, I want to be ... (12/15)