Little more than two months remain until President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney go head to head, and Native American voting advocates are using every moment they have to push their agenda.
"The Native American electorate does matter," said Laurie Weahkee, a member of the Navajo, Zuni and Cochiti tribes.
Weahkee, director of the Native American Voter Alliance in Albuquerque, said Native Americans in New Mexico may not have as much pull this year because the state won't swing much, but tribes in the Midwest will have a little more weight.
Still, it is a prime time for all tribes to shed light on issues that affect Native Americans in their area and around the nation.
"We start looking at what is the Native American agenda," said Weahkee.
While the agenda varies from tribe to tribe, environment, education and health care tend to be among the top priorities for most Native American voters.
Obama during his presidency has not greatly publicized policies affecting Native Americans, though he has made steps to foster the White House's relationship with the nation's more than 560 federally recognized tribes.
"Obama's been good to the Native Americans in general," said Erny Zah, director of communications for
The Navajo Nation endorsed Obama during his 2008 campaign, though it has no such plans this year. A Navajo Nation Council delegate must make the move to approve a resolution allowing the tribe to endorse Obama, and none has made the move so far.
President of the Navajo Nation Ben Shelly, however, gives his full support to Obama, though his chief of staff is firmly Republican.
"(Shelly) is a staunch Democrat," said Zah. "Traditionally,
Most Native American tribes are similarly aligned when it comes to politics since they tend to support environmental protection and community programs, items that are generally thought of as part of the Democratic platform.
In New Mexico, during the past presidential election, about 65 percent of Native Americans voted, reflective of the voting percentages for most tribes around the nation, Weahkee said.
Most of them voted Democratically, though the National Congress of American Indians was unavailable to confirm the numbers for New Mexico or for the nation Friday.
"It takes a community to raise a child — that's kind of in line with our tradition," said Zah, who said tribes aren't as split about politics as most other Americans.
Granted, the Obama administrations efforts to heighten environmental standards and impose strict rules on businesses such as the Four Corners Power Plant and the Navajo Mine have been wildly unpopular.
"It's going to hurt the economy more than it's going to help the emissions control," Zah said.
Additionally, Obama's plan to slash funds for cleaning up abandoned mine lands could hurt the Navajo Nation's plans to wipe up the remnants of old mines that are spread across Navajo lands.
"There are issues we'd like to see worked out with President Obama," Zah said.
On the other hand, Romney's plans to reform Obama's Affordable Care Act, which the Supreme Court upheld in June, is not a move supported by many Native Americans.
The much debated health care plan has many provisions that expand care for Native Americans specifically, though he and his vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan have spoken out against the behemoth act namely because it needs paring down.
The R and R' duo have supported separate bills, ones that aim to knock down domestic violence and build commerce on tribal lands.
While Romney's taken little specific stance on the localized tribal issues, and his campaign was unavailable for comment Friday (as was Obama's), he certainly has given the impression that he would allow businesses and corporations to take the reins without so much regulation.
"A major part of the problem over successive presidencies, and one that the Obama administration has sharply exacerbated, is the regulatory burden on the economy," said Romney on his website. "Regulations function as a hidden tax on Americans."
Native Americans, despite their liberal tendencies, also tend to outspokenly support the United States military, which could work in Romney's favor as a Republican.
"The way our history and experience has been with the U.S., a lot of Native communities are very pro military," said Weahkee.
But neither Obama nor Romney have made strides to truly appeal or campaign on tribal lands during the 2012 campaign.
Obama during the 2008 campaign visited the Crow Nation in Montana and walked away with a new name: One Who Helps People Throughout the Land.
This year, Obama hasn't seen much of the "People Throughout the Land" — the tribal lands that is.
Romney, not so much either.
"During the last campaign year, by this time, there had been more outreach," said Bineshi Albert, a member of the Yuchi and Chippewa tribes. "Having a good relationship with tribal nations is in their best interest because they sit on many of those natural resources."
About 4.8 million Native Americans lived in the United States in 2010, according to the most recent U.S. Census data.
Many of them say that if they cannot have a significant impact on the impending presidential election, they will make impacts in their own local elections. They will work from the ground up essentially.
"We try to do a lot more analysis," said Weahkee, who said her group is working to recruit more Native American voters and get them more involved. "We're trying to look at, really, who has the power?"