Voting: Why It Matters Event Held Via Zoom Dec. 15

South Dakota Programming to Include Louise Erdrich, Gloria Steinem

Through "Why It Matters," 43 Humanities Councils Across the Country and U.S. Territories Explore the History, Importance, and Impact of the American Electoral Process

The South Dakota Humanities Council is about to kick off its first statewide "Voting: Why It Matters" virtual program on Tuesday, Dec. 15, as part of a $50,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to educate South Dakotans on the importance of civic participation.

The Mellon Foundation awarded $1.96 million to the Federation of State Humanities Councils to support a new national initiative, "Why It Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation," which will explore civic participation as it relates to electoral engagement in a multivocal democracy.

South Dakota is one of 43 U.S. states and territories selected to participate in the initiative, which begins this month and will run through spring 2021.

The "Why It Matters" national initiative will provide free programming conducted by U.S. state and territorial humanities councils to engage the public in collaborative, accessible, and thought-provoking dialogues on the importance of electoral and civic participation.

Programs will explore the history of civic and electoral engagement, highlight and elevate youth perspectives, and bring people together to talk, share, learn, and listen using the humanities to promote understanding through historical context and conversation. Humanities scholarships, journalism, and community dialogue will be central to hundreds of public programs, including two radio programs, virtual online panels and keynote speakers, exhibitions, story circles, town halls, and more.

SDHC Events Kick Off with Film Screening and Discussion of Indigenous Women's Influence on Women's Rights Movement

SDHC's kickoff event is a screening and discussion of the short film "Without a Whisper/Konnon:Kwe" – the untold story of the proud influence of Indigenous women on the beginning of the women's rights movement in the United States. Featured guests are Professor Sally Roesch Wagner and Mohawk Bear Clan Mother Louise Herne (both featured in the film), along with filmmaker Katsitsionni Fox.

The event will take place Tuesday, Dec. 15, from 7-8:30 p.m. CST via Zoom. It is the first of a series of programs that will include guests such as Gloria Steinem, Louise Erdrich, Thomas E. Patterson and Robert V. Burns, as well as additional regional experts on voting access and engagement, particularly among Native Americans. All SDHC events will be free, but registration is required.

Fulfilling Need for Modern-Day Democracy

"We are thankful to the Mellon Foundation for providing this grant to fulfill a vital need for our modern-day democracy, and to the Federation of State Humanities Councils for offering us the opportunity to bring it to South Dakotans," said SDHC executive director Ann Volin. "It is important for citizens to understand how vital their vote is, and why voting matters."

Humanities councils excel at providing programs for initiatives that rely on understanding complex issues from a humanities standpoint, according to the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

"The humanities provide much-needed context to understand the roles and impact, today and historically, of the American electoral process and the societal conditions and institutions that help shape civic participation," said Susan McCarthy, board chair of the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

"The Federation, with its network of humanities councils across the country, is uniquely poised to respond to the distinctness of each state and territory and their local communities and to conduct programs that promote informed nonpartisan discussions. We are immensely grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its support of this initiative and the investment in council work it represents."

"The state humanities councils have a long record of creating and conducting programs that respond to the unique issues and concerns facing their communities and exploring where community priorities diverge and overlap. This initiative will offer spaces to learn about the electoral process, the role and impact of civic participation, and why it matters," said Phoebe Stein, president of the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

Other Programs Featured in the Nationwide Initiative

  • A radio talk show, "Vote Worthy," produced in partnership with major market NPR stations, will feature noted Kentucky voting scholar Joshua Douglas and a moderator posing and fielding questions to help inform voters about election laws, voting rights, the Electoral College, the future of our democracy, and voting during a pandemic, among others. Guests joining Professor Douglas on "Vote Worthy" include Margie Charasika, president of the Louisville League of Women Voters; Brian Clardy, Associate Professor of History at Murray State University; and Scott Lasley, Professor and Head of the Political Science Department at Western Kentucky University.
  • A pop-up exhibition, "The Art of Voting," is designed to inform Kansans of the history surrounding electoral engagement and voter suppression through an artistic examination of the history of voting. The modest-sized pop-up exhibit will connect Kansas residents in six communities with the knowledge of voting history and engage them with deep humanities questions guided by an artistic interpretation of a right-to-vote timeline.
  • A series of public programs hosted by Connecticut Humanities, including "The Electoral College," "From Suffrage to Election," and "The Vote," will explore how civic engagement affects us personally and collectively.
  • An online magazine that will explore the historically marginalized indigenous CHamoru perspectives, with a focus on Guåhan's lack of voting rights at the national level.
  • A series of discussions hosted by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities entitled "Who Gets to Vote: Conversations on Voting Rights in America," will feature keynote speakers and a four-part reading and discussion series incorporating programs that examine voting rights, women's suffrage, historic and contemporary voter suppression practices, and disenfranchisement of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated citizens.
  • A series of four virtual town halls hosted by Humanities Montana on "Political Disenfranchisement in Tribal Communities," "Montana's Urban/Rural Political Divide," and "Youth and Civic Engagement"
  • A panel on public information and the electoral process, a radio program to analyze trends in the November election, and a public program examining persistent gender issues that hamper women from voting and participating in the political process hosted by the Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades (Puerto Rican Endowment for the Humanities)

Subscribe to SDHC E-news and Blog for More Information on 'Voting: Why It Matters'

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About the Federation of State Humanities Councils

Founded in 1977, the Federation of State Humanities Councils is the national member association of the U.S. state and jurisdictional humanities councils. Our purpose is to provide leadership, advocacy, and information to help members advance programs that engage millions of citizens across diverse populations in community and civic life.


The non-profit South Dakota Humanities Council, founded in 1972, delivers humanities programming to South Dakotans. As a steward of the state's heritage, the Council promotes the exchange of ideas to foster a thoughtful and engaged society and the appreciation of South Dakota history, literature and the humanities. The council works through grant-making and cultural programs, including the South Dakota Festival of Books and One Book South Dakota. Learn more at