Home Advocate Weaver and Navajo voting advocate Agnes Laughter dies

Weaver and Navajo voting advocate Agnes Laughter dies


Agnes Laughter of Chilchinbeto, Arizona, was a Navajo weaver and voting rights advocate. In June 2006, Laughter became the only Native American to challenge the voter identification requirements of Proposition 200 in the U.S. District Court in Arizona. She was denied the right to vote because she had no ID other than her thumbprint. (Image and information from the Council of the Navajo Nation, Office of the President)

WINDOW ROCK, Arizona – Agnes Laughter, a Navajo weaver who successfully challenged the constitutionality of Arizona’s in-person voting procedures and restrictive identity requirements for Native Americans, has died, tribal officials have said.

Navajo Nation Council officials said Laughter died on September 26, but no cause was immediately disclosed.

Born in 1932 in a traditional Navajo hogan with no running water or electricity, Laughter was 16 when Native Americans won the franchise in Arizona.

In 2006, she was part of a lawsuit that led the US Department of Justice to expand the list of documents that can serve as tribal identification at polling stations.

This was in response to the measure approved by Arizona voters in 2004 aimed primarily at preventing undocumented migrants from voting and receiving public benefits.

Laughter had used his fingerprint for most of his adult life before the new law required birth certificates, bank statements or driver’s licenses.

“You are not welcome here because you do not have the correct ID. It was as if I didn’t even exist.

Navajo officials said Laughter – a renowned weaver from the community of Chilchinbeto – did not have a birth certificate, did not speak English and had never attended school.

In 2008, the Department of Justice revised the procedures to provide a broader, non-exhaustive list of documents that can serve as tribal identification for voting.

“We honor the life’s work of the late Agnes Laughter and the legacy she leaves behind him,” Tribal Council Chairman Seth Damon said in a statement. “Future generations will remember her as a protector of our franchise and for the beautiful Navajo rugs she created. The Navajo people are grateful for their courage.

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