Non-profit

Four Directions

Website:

www.fourdirectionsvote.com/

Location:

Mission, SD

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Formation:

2002

Type:

Native American Advocacy Organization

Executive Directors:

Oliver and Barb Semans

Four Directions is a left-of-center Native American get-out-the-vote advocacy organization that was formed after the 2002 U.S. Senate election in South Dakota. [1]

Four Directions has received funding from a number of left-of-center organizations. Four Directions received $101,485 from the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) for “election poll monitoring” in 2018. [2] That same year, the Tides Foundation gave $10,000 to Four Directions for “equality and human rights.” [3]

Four Directions also has ties to the National Congress of American Indians, the Native Organizers Alliance,[4] the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the left-of-center Fair Elections Center,[5] and the left-leaning Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law. [6] Four Directions has worked with these organizations on voter registration drives, so-called “voter protection” programs, and litigation in seven states. [7]

In the 2020 election cycle, Four Directions participated in voter registration and voter turnout activities in Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. [8]

The group is also a member of NARF’s Native American Voter Rights Coalition (NAVRC). NAVRC has worked on assisting in 2020 Census-related redistricting initiatives, addressing alleged rights violations observed in the 2016 elections, and conducting a survey of voters in Native American territories. [9]

History and Leadership

Oliver “O.J.” Semans and his wife, Barb Semans, are the co-executive directors of Four Directions. They formed Four Directions after conducting organizing work in the 2002 U.S. Senate race in South Dakota. The couple worked with organized labor and other institutional donors to organize voters on tribal lands in South Dakota to the benefit of then-U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD). [10] The 21st Century Democrats awarded O.J. and Barb the 2003 Paul Wellstone Grassroots Award for their efforts in the campaign. [11]

O.J. Semans remains politically active and supported U.S. Representative Deb Haaland (D—SD)’s appointment to Secretary of the Interior in the Biden administration. [12] Previously, Semans was a contact for the Native Organizers Alliance in Omaha, Nebraska. [13]

Donna Semans, the daughter of O.J. and Barb Semans, is the director of grassroots organization at Four Directions. [14]

Wizipan Garriott Little Elk works as the group’s outreach director. Little Elk worked on former President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign as Native American outreach coordinator before becoming the campaign’s national First Americans vote director. After President Obama’s election, Little Elk became the first Americans public liaison for the Obama administration transition team. In 2011, he joined the Department of the Interior, serving as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs. [15] He is currently the CEO of the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation. [16]

Activities and Funding

Four Directions produces case studies and reports about voting and election-related activism on tribal lands, in addition to filing and contributing to electoral lawsuits. [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]

Four Directions is a member of NARF’s Native American Voter Rights Coalition (NAVRC),[22] formed to develop a comprehensive litigation plan during the 2016 election cycle. [23] The coalition includes other left-of-center member organizations, including the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), the National Congress of American Indians, Western Native Voice, the California Native Vote Project, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law, and the Fair Elections Center. [24]

In 2018, Four Directions received $101,485 from NARF for “election poll monitoring”[25] and $10,000 from the Tides Foundation for “equality and human rights.” [26] In 2018, Four Directions co-executive director O.J. Seamans worked directly with Judith LeBlanc of the left-of-center Native Organizers Alliance to conduct get-out-the-vote efforts at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe headquarters in North Dakota. [27]

Four Directions was active in the 2020 election cycle, organizing the 2019 Frank LeMere Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa. [28] Four Directions also assisted members of the Navajo Nation in suing Arizona in August 2020 to extend the timeframe in which the state would accept absentee ballots. [29] In January 2020, Four Directions hosted the Native American Presidential Forum at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus, in partnership with the National Congress of American Indians, Native American Rights Fund, Native Organizers Alliance, and several tribal organizations. [30]

The group remained active in the 2020 U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia, running a donation campaign on behalf of Democratic candidates which routed donors through ActBlue. [31] Four Directions also hosted a townhall meeting featuring then-Rep. Debra Haaland about the importance of Native American voters in the race. [32]

According to the organization’s donation page, Four Directions has leveraged partnerships with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the left-of-center Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law, and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF)[33] on voter registration drives, so-called “voter protection” programs, and litigation in at least seven states. [34]

Four Directions suggests making tax-deductible donations to its nonprofit partner, Real Food America, on its donation page. [35]

References

  1. “2002: “As the sun rose in South Dakota, so did a new political force.”” Four Directions. March 7, 2021. https://www.fourdirectionsvote.com/empowerment/2002-as-the-sun-rose-in-south-dakota-so-did-a-new-political-force/. ^
  2. Native American Rights Funds Inc., IRS (Form 990), 2018. Section B. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/840611876/202010839349300821/full. ^
  3. Tides Foundation. Return of an Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2018. http://www.tides.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Tides-Foundation-2018-Public-Disclosure-Copy-1.pdf. ^
  4. “Native American Presidential Forum 2020.” UNLV Calendar. January 14, 2020. https://www.unlv.edu/event/native-american-presidential-forum-2020. ^
  5. “NAVRC Members. Organizational Members.” Native American Rights Fund. Accessed March 8, 2021. https://vote.narf.org/. ^
  6. “Mobilize Voters in Georgia.” Four Directions Donation Page. Accessed March 7, 2021. https://secure.actblue.com/donate/fd-tw-2009-fr. ^
  7. “Mobilize Voters in Georgia.” Four Directions Donation Page. Accessed March 7, 2021. https://secure.actblue.com/donate/fd-tw-2009-fr. ^
  8. “Native American Presidential Forum 2020.” UNLV Calendar. January 14, 2020. https://www.unlv.edu/event/native-american-presidential-forum-2020. ^
  9. Native American Voting Rights Coalition. Native American Rights Fund. Accessed March 8, 2021. https://www.narf.org/cases/voting-rights/. ^
  10. “2002: “As the sun rose in South Dakota, so did a new political force.”” Four Directions. March 7, 2021. https://www.fourdirectionsvote.com/empowerment/2002-as-the-sun-rose-in-south-dakota-so-did-a-new-political-force/. ^
  11. “Oliver and Barb Semans.” Four Directions. March 7, 2021. https://www.fourdirectionsvote.com/team/oliver-and-barb-semans/. ^
  12. Daly, Matthew and Knickmeyer, Ellen. “’Something Very Historical’: Push for Diverse Biden Cabinet.” U.S. News & World Report. November 21, 2020. https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2020-11-21/something-very-historical-push-for-diverse-biden-cabinet. ^
  13. “Tribal Leaders Demand Army Corps of Engineers Stop Pipeline Work at Standing Rock, Call on President Obama to Intercede.” People’s Action.org. September 8, 2016. https://peoplesaction.org/project/tribal-leaders-demand-usacoe-stop-pipeline-construction/. ^
  14. “Donna Semans.” Four Directions. Accessed Mach 7, 2021. https://www.fourdirectionsvote.com/team/donna-semans/. ^
  15. “Wizipan Garriott Little Elk.” Four Directions. Accessed March 7, 2021. http://www.fourdirectionsvote.com/team/wizipan-garriott-little-elk/. ^
  16. “Wizipan Garriott Little Elk.” Four Directions. Accessed March 7, 2021. http://www.fourdirectionsvote.com/team/wizipan-garriott-little-elk/. ^
  17. “Rights.” Four Directions. March 8, 2021. https://www.fourdirectionsvote.com/rights/. ^
  18. “Protection.” Four Directions. March 8, 2021. https://www.fourdirectionsvote.com/protection/. ^
  19. “Engagement.” Four Directions. March 8, 2021. https://www.fourdirectionsvote.com/protection/. ^
  20. “Empowerment.” Four Directions. March 8, 2021. https://www.fourdirectionsvote.com/empowerment/. ^
  21. “Court Cases.” Four Directions. March 8, 2021. https://www.fourdirectionsvote.com/court-cases/. ^
  22. “Native American Voting Rights. NAVRC Organizational Members.” NARF. Accessed March 8, 2021. https://vote.narf.org/. ^
  23. Native American Rights Fund, Inc. Return of an Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2018. https://www.narf.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/FY2019-990.pdf. ^
  24. “NAVRC Members. Organizational Members.” Native American Rights Fund. Accessed March 8, 2021. https://vote.narf.org/. ^
  25. Native American Rights Funds Inc., IRS (Form 990), 2018. Section B. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/840611876/202010839349300821/full. ^
  26. Tides Foundation. Return of an Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2018. http://www.tides.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Tides-Foundation-2018-Public-Disclosure-Copy-1.pdf. ^
  27. Astor, Maggie. “In North Dakota, Native Americans Try to Turn an ID Law to Their Advantage.” New York Times. October 30, 2018. Accessed via Web Archive. March 7, 2021. http://web.archive.org/web/20210123200816/https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/30/us/politics/north-dakota-voter-id.html. ^
  28. “Calendar of Events: Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum 2019.” Orpheum. August 19, 2019. https://orpheumlive.com/event/frank-lemere-native-american-presidential-forum-2019/. ^
  29. Mansoor, Sanya. “Native Americans Could Help Swing Arizona – But Many Struggle to Cast Their Ballot.” Time Magazine. October 7, 2020. https://time.com/5895299/native-american-vote-arizona-elections/. ^
  30. “Native American Presidential Forum 2020.” UNLV Calendar. January 14, 2020. https://www.unlv.edu/event/native-american-presidential-forum-2020. ^
  31. “Mobilize Voters in Georgia.” Four Directions Donation Page. Accessed March 7, 2021. https://secure.actblue.com/donate/fd-tw-2009-fr. ^
  32. “MEDIA RELEASE: Native American Town Hall with Congresswoman Haaland.” Four Directions. December 14, 2020. http://www.fourdirectionsvote.com/news/media-release-native-american-town-hall-with-congresswoman-haaland/. ^
  33. “Mobilize Voters in Georgia.” Four Directions Donation Page. Accessed March 7, 2021. https://secure.actblue.com/donate/fd-tw-2009-fr. ^
  34. “Mobilize Voters in Georgia.” Four Directions Donation Page. Accessed March 7, 2021. https://secure.actblue.com/donate/fd-tw-2009-fr. ^
  35. “Contribute to Four Directions:.” Four Directions. March 7, 2021. https://www.fourdirectionsvote.com/donation/. ^
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Four Directions


Mission, SD