Western Native Voice works year-round to inspire Native leadership so our communities flourish. We are excited to share with you Western Native Voice’s Community Spotlight, designed to highlight grassroots organizing and individuals creating change from across Montana and in Indian Country.
This month we spoke with Kelli Twoteeth. Kelli ran in House District 79 in a recent special election and is currently a community organizer with Montana Native Vote and is also affiliated with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana, the ACLU of Montana, Helena Indian Alliance, and the Lewis and Clark County Democrats. We sat down with Kelli to explore their experience in running for office as well as their life experience as a two spirit individual
Organizations: Montana Native Vote, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana, ACLU Montana, Helena Indian Alliance, Lewis & Clark County Democrats
Where are you from?
I'm from Helena, Montana.
Would you mind sharing with us what your experience was in running for office?
It was a special election process that doesn't happen often, so my experience is probably different from a lot of other people. In my experience with the Lewis and Clark Democratic Committee, the way they handled House District 79, was amazing and if you want to run for office as an Indigenous person, or if you want to run in general, I just say go out there and do it.
What inspired you to run in that special election?
On average, it takes a woman nine times to be asked to run for office before she actually considers it. I was asked by my Helena community, maybe over 100 times, and nobody really told me how. How do you run for office? So I saw it as an opportunity to put my name in the hat and get my name out there.
It's interesting that you mentioned that, on average, women are asked at least nine times before they make a solid commitment to running. Why do you think that is?
Running for office as a woman is hard and just putting yourself out there in office in general is hard. To be an Indigenous woman and run for office? Women like me are not supposed to run for office, but this year is the year of the woman. Running for office is a hard task, so to do it as a woman is hard enough and then to be a marginalized community member and a woman as well, it almost seems impossible. We have candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We have candidates like Deb (Haaland) and Sharice (Davids) who are running for Congress and it's really inspiring and it's really making us step out of our comfort zone and create change. I think it's amazing.
Oftentimes folks get lumped into that generic category of being LGBTQ. There obviously nuances. Would you be comfortable in sharing a little bit of the nuances for you within the community?