Ta’jin Perez’s parents and older brother came from Papantla, Veracruz, Mexico, before he was born, but his dad made him keenly aware that more than being Mexican or American, “We are Indigenous,” Perez says. “And above all else, it is our responsibility to be of service and help other indigenous people in their struggles.”
“I’m a first-generation American,” he says. “I grew up with a specific understanding of how history and policies and laws really affected my family personally and affected a community of people who had similar backgrounds as my parents and myself. That personal part of the story of this country and how it affects individuals always stuck with me.”
When he was 8 or 9 years old, his parents and older brother were naturalized. He now sees that as the beginning of his understanding of the importance of voting. And that’s what ultimately led him to Western Native Voice (WNV), an organization that serves Native American communities in Montana, both on the reservation and in urban areas.
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“I remember all the little American flags and just how big of a deal it was for my parents to finally be able to shed some of the anxiety of being undocumented and being able to have that voice and, through their vote, be part of shaping policy for themselves and their community.”
WNV is trying to expand the access to voter registration in Montana as much as possible through an online voter registration kiosk project that allows people to complete a majority of their registrations online.
Perez says of the voting rights movement: “It is all of our responsibility to take charge and move it forward, and be the strong warriors that inspire the future generations to continue to fight.”