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SHIPROCK — An Albuquerque-based organization wants to boost voter participation among Native Americans in the 2020 election, and hopes to increase its presence in the state.

Members of the Native American Democratic Caucus of New Mexico shared information about the group with voters in Shiprock on July 25.

Aleta "Tweety" Suazo is the group's chairwoman.

Suazo said since she started leading the group last year, she noticed the need to increase its presence and to mobilize Native Americans to vote.

The counties of San Juan, McKinley, Otero, Rio Arriba, Taos, Santa Fe, Sandoval, Bernalillo, Valencia, Cibola and Socorro have large populations of Native Americans and the group would like to expand its membership to include chapters in those areas, she said.

"I think we need chapters in different areas to provide and support the needs of those particular communities," Suazo said.

Rebecca Touchin, a caucus member, said the group focused last year on the campaign for Xochitl Torres Small and the grassroots effort helped Small win the Congressional District 2 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The activity also helped the group venture out of the Albuquerque area to connect with Native American communities in New Mexico, she added.

"We're hoping that we can establish these chapters and we can have someone continue that connection from your area to us," Touchin said.

The meeting also provided the opportunity for tribal members to meet state Sen. Shannon Pinto, who was sworn into office on July 23 at the McKinley County Magistrate Court in Gallup.

Shannon Pinto was appointed to represent District 3, which is comprised of areas in San Juan and McKinley counties, on July 18 by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

She is succeeding her grandfather, John Pinto, who represented the district from 1977 until his death on May 24.

Among the items Pinto talked about was the need for the film industry to shoot more projects in the region because it can boost employment and local economies.

"Locally, if someone came here to make a movie, how many people would have jobs from it. Even outside the state, it's kind of free advertising for the area," she said.

With the population on the Navajo Nation continue to grow, the land is a resource that needs to be utilized, she said.

"Find that little niche for our people," Pinto said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-546-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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