Indian Self-Determination Threatened

( – promoted by navajo)


photo credit: Aaron Huey

During the twentieth century, American Indian government policies with regard to American Indian nations changed radically several times. In the 1970s the government adopted a policy of self-determination which has proven to be the most successful approach for dealing with the wide variety of problems found on Indian reservations. Recently, however, Stephen Cornell and Joseph P. Kalt, in a recent working paper entitled “American Indian Self-Determination: The Political Economy of a Policy that Works,” have concluded:

Analysis of thousands of sponsorships of federal legislation over 1970-present, however, finds the equilibrium under challenge. In particular, since the late 1990s, Republican congressional support for policies of self-determination has fallen off sharply and has not returned. The recent change in the party control of Congress calls into question the sustainability of self-determination through self-governance as a central principle of federal Indian policy.


What Came Before:

For the first century of its existence, the United States Indian policy viewed American Indian tribes as sovereign nations and therefore negotiated treaties with them in order to obtain title to their lands. By the 1880s, American greed caught up to Indian policies. Feeling that the Indians had too much land, federal policies turned toward assimilation. The idea was simple: destroy tribal governments, break up the reservations, and have individual Indians assimilate into the American dream in the same manner as other immigrants. The result of this policy was the creation of massive poverty on Indian reservations.

By the 1920s, its was obvious to many people that federal Indian policy was a failure. With the election of Franklin Roosevelt and the implementation of the New Deal Indian policies again changed. The idea now was to have the tribes reorganize their governments as corporations and to give Indians some say in determining their future.

Following World War II, the United States turned its energies into fighting communism. Indian reservations and policies which would allow Indians to determine their own futures were deemed communistic and the federal government set out once again to destroy (terminate) Indian tribes and to “allow” Indians to assimilate like other immigrants. Indian people and their tribal governments vigorously opposed these policies.


Under the administration of President Lyndon Johnson, American Indian policy began to shift and with the formal renunciation of termination by President Richard Nixon, Indian policy formally moved away from assimilation. In asking Congress to pass a resolution repudiating termination, Nixon told Congress:

“Because termination is morally and legally unacceptable, because it produces bad practical results, and because the mere threat of termination tends to discourage greater self-sufficiency among Indian groups, I am asking the Congress to pass a new Concurrent Resolution which would expressly renounce, repudiate and repeal the termination policy as expressed in House Concurrent Resolution 108 of the 83rd Congress.”

The new Indian policy focused on Self-Determination and government-to-government relations between federal agencies, state governments and the tribes. In some respects this represented a return to the philosophies behind the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act.

The Indian Self-Determination Act was passed by Congress in 1974. The Act stipulates that Indian tribes could contract to take over programs which had previously been handled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. According to the Act, the tribes may, upon request, contract with the agencies to administer programs on their reservations. The agencies have almost no discretion to decline to enter into such contracts. Self-determination was to be a launching platform for tribal advancement and economic development.

Self-determination is ultimately about the concept of sovereignty: the right of a people to govern themselves. Indian tribes are viewed as sovereign nations by the constitution. The Supreme Court has described tribes as domestic, dependent nations, meaning that some of their aboriginal sovereignty has been given to the federal government. The Nez Perce Tribe puts it this way:

“The powers that tribes exercise today are nevertheless the same inherent sovereign powers they possessed and exercised centuries ago. We must and do recognize, however, that some of these powers exist in altered form and that others have been totally extinguished or reduced over the years.”

The era of Self-Determination over the past three decades has meant that Indian tribes have enjoyed sustained support and cooperation from the Congress and the executive branch to engage in meaningful government-to-government relations.

With regard to self-determination and economic development on Indian reservations, Self-Determination has meant that development programs are being designed and directed by Indian tribes instead of the federal government. With the new Congress this may change.  

“Hope For American Indians Starts With Peltier’s Freedom:” Tribal Sovereignty In The Energy Crisis

( – promoted by navajo)


Why might “Change and Hope for American Indians start with Peltier’s Freedom?”

First, let’s review three examples of what needs to be changed: Blackwater’s questionable involvement with Bear Butte, Alex White Plume having been disallowed to grow Hemp, and Michael Rost’s encroachment on Tribal Lands. Many more examples could be offered as well as citing the racist attitudes that empower the land theft, but let’s relate how Peltier’s freedom would relate to Blackwater’s questionable involvement with Bear Butte first.  

(Emphasis mine)

Subject: Protection for Mato Paha (Bear Butte)

Despite protests of American Indian People and other supporters, the county has granted alcohol licenses to the bars. Recently, a corporation has purchased majority ownership in the bar closest to Mato Paha and they are going to have helicopter rides over the butte. We are informed this corporation is affiliated with or are former Blackwater high clearance mercenaries and have already strong armed some American Indians who were on public land taking pictures.

Blackwater’s questionable involvement with Bear Butte isn’t that questionable, there’s natural resources in the Black Hills, and the Black Hills was at the heart of the conflict before Peltier’s false arrest. Would freeing him stop the land encroachment? No, not since they might not “need” the uranium in the Black Hills in the future, nor might they “need” to acquire it from Tribal Lands in the future. Read on.


Would freeing him have stopped the land encroachment Alex White Plume experienced? I don’t think the DEA would have cared either way. They would have attacked Alex White Plume’s financial independence regardless. Again, it comes back to the land, but will they need to steal anymore? Read on.


Alex White Plume, a Lakota living on the Pine Ridge Reservation, has grown industrial hemp on his land since 2000. That year, the DEA, with helicopters and machine guns, confiscated the crop (legal in the sovereign nation in which it was grown), costing taxpayers more than $200,000.00.

In 2001, the DEA came only with side arms and weed eaters, this time simply destroying the crop.

In 2002, Alex and his family again planted fields of industrial hemp, but were unable to complete their contract by delivering the crop to the Madison Hemp and Flax Co., because U.S. District Judge Battey (in Rapid City, So. Dak.), issued a civil injunction stating that if Alex so much as touches his hemp, he will be held in contempt of court and jailed for up to six months without a trial or a jury. As a result, the hemp was cut and piled by people unknown; the pile lying in silent testimony between Alex and the Madison Hemp & Flax buyer Craig Lee, both barred from touching it by the government. Delivery was made, but the deliveree could not accept the product.


Following the tragic fire which destroyed their (Debra and Alex White Plume’s) home, its contents and all of the irreplaceable documents and art in the Owe Aku office…Debra never hesitated for a moment to organize, mobilize and manage the team she leads in taking on the multinational corporations threatening to expand uranium mining in and around Pine Ridge.


Survival requires in the minds of the intruders that the end justifies the means, yet what if the answer is now before them and they don’t know what it is, and that the only thing left to do is to respect Tribal Sovereignty and to accommodate different cultural views? Now we’re about to get to why “Change and Hope for American Indians start(s) with Peltier’s Freedom.” What will be left is hate crime for hate crimes’ sake and refusal to change perhaps, but there just might be a choice that’s been previously unknown.…

A man by the name of Michael Rost has been encroaching on Tribal Lands by bulldozing roads, tearing down trees, disturbing burial grounds, and stealing sacred objects off Schaghticoke land,

Russell Means participating in Schaghticoke Tribal Nation rally

“…That the state is allowing the destruction of our reservation by someone who is not even a tribal member is a disgrace. To have the remains of our ancestors and our relations disturbed is unheard of. To allow someone to disturb our artifacts and take them off our land and sold along with our timber and our rocks is unprecedented, and there’s no stopping this in sight,” Velky said.

Freeing Peltier would be a beginning of respecting Tribal Sovereignty and accommodating different cultural views along with signing the U.N. Declaration of Indigenous Rights. Blackwater wouldn’t be needed to steal the resources of Bear Butte, Debra and Alex White Plume could be left alone and not have to fight uranium mining, while people like Rost would still exist, even though their financial incentives would be gone? I’m nowhere near qualified to say anything definite. However, I am  related to someone who was qualified to have a valid, if not sound opinion regarding the energy crisis. Read this.


The reason Barbara Boxer has a copy of that letter, is because I told my biological grandfather to mail one to her after I saw that he had sent one to John McCain. I met my biological grandfather for the first time two months before he died. That was about the time I learned for sure all my Indian blood comes from my biological mother. Returning to my late biological grandfather and his letter; I’m not saying who he was or where he worked at.

The letter contains the technology to clean up nuclear waste, but that’s all I’m going to say about that part for the same reason that I don’t think such things should be on the internet. The point is, at least one member of both political parties probably knows. This is what I see.

Combined with everything else such as wind and solar power, the survival need to steal natural resources off Tribal Lands is gone, or it could be. Problem is, our technology far supersedes our humanity, and I don’t trust this new administration in conjunction with the Supreme Court with  to implement what my own grandfather shows, because I think they’d skip the cleaning up nuclear waste part and just dump it on Tribal Lands. If wastewater, why not nuclear waste (Radiation Warning Signs Placed on Cheyenne River)?

Supreme Court declines to hear sacred site case Monday, June 8, 2009

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Forest Service did not violate the religious rights of tribes by allowing the use of reclaimed wastewater in the sacred San Francisco Peaks of Arizona.

However, free Leonard Peltier, sign the U.N. Declaration of Indigenous Rights, and I would change my mind. Respect. It’s all about respect now.

Respect. The best memory I have of him is watching the RNC with him; it was like watching a football game. He was Republican. We agreed on principals, but we disagreed on who would get us there and who wouldn’t. It was a long waited for evening of being together. Now, back to the main point: Tribal Sovereignty In The Energy Crisis.

While the financial crisis hadn’t become common knowledge when I met him then, the need for green jobs wasn’t felt like it is today. I see no reason why both his life’s work and the need to have a green economy cannot coexist, and that would do one thing – eliminate the need to encroach on Tribal Lands. If Leonard Peltier is freed and the U.N. Declaration of Indigenous Rights is signed, only then would there be the change necessary for respecting Tribal Sovereignty.

What all did the letter say? Ask Barbara Boxer and not McCain. He loves his off shore drilling, “Drill, baby drill.” Shut up McCain, shut up.

The question as I see it is this: would we go to a hydrogen – based economy and utilize the technology that cleans up nuclear waste; or, would we go to a hydrogen – based economy and not utilize the technology that cleans up nuclear waste?

I am not optimistic,

Supreme Court declines to hear sacred site case Monday, June 8, 2009

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Forest Service did not violate the religious rights of tribes by allowing the use of reclaimed wastewater in the sacred San Francisco Peaks of Arizona.

and the real problem isn’t with the Obama Administration, who needs to be commended for appointing “Kimberly Teehee for the newly created position of senior policy advisor for Native American Affairs.” But it’s too late to say this or that, assuming they read it – they know. Moreover, combining green jobs with the information in my grandfather’s letter just might save our planet. My opinion isn’t based on expertise, but that letter warrants serious examination.  Boxer is on Twitter, isn’t she? Yes, she is.

It conclude, if the answer to “would we go to a hydrogen – based economy and utilize the technology that cleans up nuclear waste” would be no, this discussion is pointless as far as I’m concerned. And, it’s worth debating.

Would we go to a hydrogen - based economy and utilize the technology that cleans up nuclear waste?

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Congressional Black Caucus (and Barney Frank) Continue Assault on Tribal Sovreignty (Cherokee)

( – promoted by navajo)

I just received an email from a fellow tribal attorney in regards to the ongoing Congressional Black Caucus – Cherokee Nation dispute.  Apparently Barney Frank has appointed his conferees to the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act conference committee.

I just received an email from a fellow tribal attorney in regards to the ongoing Congressional Black Caucus – Cherokee Nation dispute.  Apparently Barney Frank has appointed his conferees to the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act conference committee.

The Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act is being used as a vehicle to further the dispute between the Congressional Black Caucus and the Cherokee Nation.  The CBC has promised to hold up funds because the Cherokee Nation has voted, twice, to remove the Freedmen, who cannot prove they are descendents of tribal members.

While I am not a fan of the decision by the tribe,… control over membership is an aspect of the inherent sovereignty tribes enjoy because of their status as PRE-EXISTING SOVEREIGNS.  

The Supreme Court has affirmed this in the case of Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, where a Pueblo restricted tribal membership to essentially patrilineal descendents.…

Senator Obama, our Presidential Candidate and a constitutional law scholar, has indicated he disagrees with Watson and supports the Cherokee Nation’s sovereignty, while disagreeing with the decision.…

Rep. Dianne Watson has been laboring under the misapprehension that the Cherokee’s sovereignty stems from a post-Civil War Treaty.…

Congresswoman Watson has united the CBC and caused unnecessary tension within the Obama coalition, by attacking not only the Cherokee Nation, but also holding up funding for all tribes and undermining tribal sovereignty across a broad front.  Now is a time for building coalitions, not fracturing them.

Congressman Frank is exacerbating the problem.

“Last week the Chairman of the Financial Services Committee (Barney Frank) appointed the House NAHASDA conferees. It appears as if only one conferee, Congressmen Pearce (R-NM), has a federally recognized Tribe in his district. The remaining Majority conferees are predominately Members from the Congressional Black Caucus. Chairman Frank announced on the House floor that he made his conference appointments in order to ensure the Cherokee issue would be addressed.”

Once again, racial politics in America is pitting one minority group’s interests against the interests of another.  This is not change we can believe in.  This is an unnecessary attack on tribal sovereignty and poor strategy by Democrats in the months before a critical and historic national election.  

Once again, Nancy Pelosi has failed to lead the House and keep Democrats united under one tent.  

Indian Country is not unanimous in supporting the effects of the ouster of the Freedmen.  But we are united in defending tribal sovereignty.  

Pelosi should know better.  Watson should know better.  Barney Frank should know better.