|United States: 562 Nations Under
September 1, 2003
By Elaine D. Willman, MPA
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Fabric left unattended can be devastated from tiny moth-eaten holes that grow. For a moment, please visualize in your minds, a map of the United States, all 50 states -- a map that includes the fabric of traditional American government as established by our Constitution, that manifests in small townships, villages, cities, counties states and a federal center in Washington D.C.
Now imagine holes in the fabric of that American government map -- 562 sizable holes that are daily enlarging. in more than 40 of our states across that map.
There are over 100 such holes in California, and 29 such holes in Washington State alone. These are holes in the American government map in which different governments coexist -- governments that generally do not recognize the U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights. Geographic areas known as federally recognized Indian reservations have tribal governments that predominantly require their enrolled tribal members, even though American citizens, to forego their Constitutional guarantees and Bill of Rights. The prevailing form of government within these holes is known as tribalism. It bears no relationship to a republic form of government or a democracy, as you and I understand democracy.
Now consider Senate Bill 578 entitled the "Tribal Governments Amendment to the Homeland Security Act of 2002." Four senators sponsor it: Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka, both from Hawaii, Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA). SB 578 would remove the remnants of American government from Indian reservations, directly impacting more than 500,000 Indians, and as many other, non-Indian American citizens. The indirect impact affects millions of nearby Americans and even more millions of touring Americans.
For example, in Yakima County, Washington, SB 578 would remove the governance, jurisdiction and authority of three municipalities, county government and state government from 45% of Yakima County's total land base. Thus would traditional American government be removed from some 40,000 American citizens (the reservation is 90% non-Indian) who reside or work within or near the Yakama Indian reservation. Now apply the same or similar measuring stick to approximately 1,400 other counties in the United States that contain or surround Indian reservations (and many reservations spread out over several counties). Except for the Navajo Reservation, the great majority of Indian reservations are predominantly non-Indian in population. Congress, in its "Dancing With Wolves" mentality entirely ignores the reality of census data on Indian reservations. Congress now dances with new wolves -- the gaming industry.
Senate Bill 578 does several other things. It grants tribes a sovereignty status equal to the 50 states -- a direct violation of Article IV, Section 3 that disallows the creation of a state within a state. Worse, it allows these non-republic, unaccountable forms of government that do not abide by the Constitution, access to Homeland Security data, secret information, and additional federal funds.
I should mention here that over the recent years the Mohawk Reservation in New York boasted about being paid $40,000 a head for smuggling some terrorist aliens across the Canadian border to secretly merge into the United States.
I should also mention that in early April of 2002, here on the Yakama reservation, the Yakama tribes played host for several days to 15 "civic journalists" from such countries as Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Algeria, Tunisia, etc. A photo of the "visiting dignitaries" was published in the Toppenish Review in mid-April 2002, but no names or countries of the "civic journalists" were provided. Yakama reservation is in a reasonably remote area in Central Washington. However, it is directly north of the Umatilla Chemical Weapons Storage Facility. Its easterly neighbor is Hanford Nuclear site. It is due west of the Yakima Army Training Center and an International listening post, and it is due south of major dams such as Coulee, Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams.
Those "civic journalists," were not from England or Mexico or Canada.
They were from Arab and North African countries, several of which are still of concern to the rest of us, as exporters of terrorism.
Just a month ago, on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, on the Canadian border, the entire tribal police department was taken over by the Bureau of Indian affairs for corruption, nepotism, embezzlement, intimidation and failure to enforce laws or keep tribal members even reasonably safe. Blackfeet tribal members were terrified of their own government and law enforcement. Does any American in his or her right mind, want such a tribe to have statehood, access to privileged information, and a claim on the resources of our Federal Homeland Security Department?
The 2000 Census tells us that the population of enrolled tribal members is actually less than one-half of one percent of America's population, and less than 25% of all American Indians in the U.S. Three out of four American Indians do not live on reservations. The actual reservation population of only one-half of 1% of the U.S. population now financially and politically overwhelms the voice of the rest of 99.5% of America's census.
All of our ancestors faced adversities -- all of them. I cannot think of a human being, living or dead, whose life was utterly absent adversity. There were famines, plagues, droughts, wars, recessions -- truly hard times for everyone.
Here in the Northwestern quadrant of the United States, Governor Isaac Stevens' Treaties, executed in 1855, are still viable documents whose powers are greatly exaggerated, abused and otherwise misrepresented. Treaties were made to acquire land for the Untied States, to provide land and resources to Indian tribes, and to make settlers who were already here in the Northwest, safe from Indian attack. Indians were given land, monthly income, blacksmiths, doctors, schools, livestock and farm equipment, and houses for their chiefs.
In 1855, settlers were given -- zip.
Settlers were just encouraged to "Go West" -- and the brave ones did, with little or no government support, and only supplies that could be carried by wagon. But they went West.
The year 1855 was five years before the Civil War. In 1855, when Indians were given land, money and supplies, and settlers were given nothing but encouragement to Go West, we were still buying and selling Black Americans, and in the White world then, women still could not own property or vote. Even back in 1855 when every family struggled with adversity, Indians were actually provided more resources and attention from our federal government than any other Americans.
Many of us have been stunned to learn of the breadth and depth of the tentacles of federal Indian policy. What is this machine? How did we get here? Why is the momentum of federal Indian policy just now building with such explosive, exponential force?
First, the Game: the Indian Gaming Act of 1988, Federal Tribal Recognition practices, and Fee Land to Trust policies fast-tracking land back to tribes. This set the stage to launch over 420 existing mega-million Indian casinos, with 100 more coming on line in California alone, and 217 other recognition requests moving through the Department of Interior. In particular, the Indian Gaming Act set tribes on a path well intended for economic self-determination, but as the net effect of gambling always does, epidemic greed has ensued. Now "self-determination" isn't enough. Power and determination over the lands and lives of "others" is rapidly enlarging the tribalism "holes" tearing the fabric of American government.
Second, the Money Machines: Indian Gaming Revenue, endless federal appropriations and subsidies, and gullible, naive or otherwise misled philanthropist nonprofits throw tons of money at those poor Indians because "we took their land." The problem is that the tons of federal, gaming and nonprofit dollars seldom reach a tribal member's family to actually improve quality of life.
On the Yakama Reservation, as an example, the Yakama Legends casino celebrated its fifth year of operation in May 2003, but tribal members still cry out to see a revenue report, and derive almost no benefit from gaming. It is impossible to discover if Yakama's gaming revenue has built homes for tribal members, or provided health or education resource for its tribal members. There is no discernible improvement in the quality of life for tribal members. But Legends Casino boasts of million-dollar days. This is far too typical of Indian casinos on reservations across the country. Tribal members are clueless about their tribe's gaming revenue, and their quality of life remains unimproved. Across the country, under current tribal gaming policies on most reservations, tribal members will be in poverty fifty years from now. Tribal leaders, gaming developers, the legal and partisan political industry are, however, the fat cats.
Third, The Pathway: President Clinton's 1998 Executive Order 13084 requiring an Indian Policy desk in twenty-five Federal agencies, ready and waiting to fast-track paperwork and quickly accommodate any tribal request. The Federal Elections Commission created an additional piece of the pathway in May 2000. Where tribes demand and enjoy a "government-to-government" relationship with the federal government, the Federal Election Commission, in its Advisory Opinion 2000-05, determined that tribes are not governments for purpose of campaign finance and election activities. They are not subject to the prohibitions that all other governments have respecting political activity or contributions. American towns, cities, counties and states may not contribute a single penny to political activities, but tribal governments may do so with abandon. So tribes are governments in order to receive federal subsidies, but not governments for purpose of unlimited, unregulated, and unmonitored campaign contributions from checks issued directly from tribal general treasury funds or from Indian gaming revenue -- two sets of huge bottomless-money pots, over 1,000 of them and growing monthly. The bottom line: our taxpayer dollars that go into tribal general funds can be redirected back to our elected officials to do the bidding of tribes.
Republicans and Democrats alike, profit from this scheme. Taxpayers are fueling the demise of their own traditional government.
Fourth, Special Preferences and Exemptions: Where early federal election codes such as the Tillman Act of 1907, and the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 had never before specifically included "Indian tribes" as subject to election rules, "Indian tribes" have recently been intentionally omitted in the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform.
If the specific words, "Indian tribes" are not expressly included in legislation, they are not subject to the legislation.
After significant grassroots efforts calling attention to this egregious "Indian Loophole," both the Senate and House offered amendments to include Indian Tribes in McCain and Feingold's bill, but the amendments were defeated.
Leaving these two important words out of Campaign Finance Reform significantly increases the financial clout of Indian election, campaign and lobbying funds, now wide open, at a time when contributions of all other citizens and entities are substantially restrained.
Federal Indian policy has created two classes of persons in the United States, taxpayers and non-taxpayers, based entirely upon race. Just for fun, browse the IRS website online, keywording "Indian" to see hundreds, perhaps thousands of special IRS tax waivers, exemptions and benefits enjoyed only by enrolled American Indians and unavailable to any other Americans. Did you know that two military personnel of equal rank and duty, perhaps sharing the same foxhole or sand dune in Afghanistan or Iraq, get different paychecks? Enrolled Indians in the military do not pay state taxes, but the guy or gal fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with them do. Indian money, exempt from most taxes, goes farther than non-Indian money that is held strictly accountable to the IRS.
Fifth, The Players: Indian lobbyists, the national gaming industry, tribal leaders, a burgeoning Indian attorney industry, and elected officials. Oh, and the bleeding-heart academics -- the university professors who are on permanent retainers for tribes across the country -- all gather round the Indian money-pots. An especially unholy alliance is the triumvirate of environmentalists, tribes and the federal government, joining together to aim a cannon called the Endangered Species Act, destroying everything human in its path.
That is exactly what happened to the Klamath Farmers in Oregon, Methow Valley farmers in Washington State, and numerous other areas are still at high risk.
Just one tribe, for example, the Agua Caliente Band in California, now retains 14 full-time Washington D.C. lobbyists to ensure that federal legislation and funding increases benefits to their tribe.
Imagine the cumulative hordes of lawyers and lobbyists representing 561 other tribes.
Last, the Losers: Very, very little of this great money adventure trickles down to uplift the quality of life among enrolled tribal members and their families. Very, very little.
Tribal lifestyle continues to be a welfare state run by monarchial, and often malevolent chieftains. Poorer tribes that don't cough up monies into the political process do not get to play in this game. That happened recently when the Chinook and Duwamish tribes in Washington were de-recognized, and it happens in small ways among federal funding agencies and grant competitions. The bigger the political contribution, the greater in frequency are federal waivers, exemptions and maneuvers to give politically strong tribes political sledgehammers. The National Congress of American Indians appears to be the "Choir Director" here, influencing who's in and who's out among tribes.
Too many Indian casinos do not pay minimum wage, have no health and food inspections, nor decent labor programs, and customers are at their own risk in the event of illness or injury, because tribes incessantly sue, but they cannot be sued.
The other losers in this sorry mess are you and me. We were just polite kids, growing up, trying to be good neighbors, doing our best to get along with all cultures, raising our families, being respectful to each other as fellow Americans of all ethnicity, and innocently unaware of this morass that is now forcing us out of our businesses, out of our homes and off of our farms, ranches, forests and lands.
Most of us learned early on that a deal is a deal, regardless of the circumstances of the parties. Ah, but not so with Federal Indian Policy. Every deal can come undone with Federal Indian Policy, and America is coming undone. It is coming undone times 562 tribes, with 217 more tribes awaiting recognition, and they'll need new reservations and casinos too. These numbers are a bit overwhelming for a mere 50 states when you add in the financial clout and economic drainage caused by over 400 megabucks-Indian casinos hastening the undoing.
I don't recall a single historical reference in school, nor do I recall seeing any paintings or pictures of nomadic tribal members walking across the grasslands, pulling their teepees and slot machines on lodge poles behind Indian ponies. Since when did slot machines and casinos become traditional Indian culture? The answer to that is: Since the gaming industry, legal and otherwise, saw a gold mine. The most evil of marriages is between the "You-Owe-Me" people and the "I'm Gonna Make An Offer You Can't Refuse" gaming guys. The Indian gaming Industry, including their foreign investors and legions of lawyers, now essentially fund, entice, overwhelm or intimidate Congressional and state elected leaders.
The fact that millions of Americans now fear the economic, jurisdictional and quite possibly judicial takeover by tribal governments, of their communities and government, is testimony to the escalating powerful force of Indian gaming money and how quickly political pressure works.
As said at the outset, for all who should be concerned, the most recent and egregious federal legislation proposed by our Indian gaming "coin-operated" elected officials is Senate Bill 578 -- the "Tribal Governments Amendment to the Homeland Security Act of 2002."
The bill has purportedly been temporarily withdrawn, but will surface again when we least expect it, likely as a stealth amendment or rider to an appropriations bill with a strong likelihood of passage, such as an emergency appropriation measure the White House is eager to sign. Here is why:
Originally nicknamed the "Hicks Fix," (Nevada v. Hicks, 2001) a movement spearheaded by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and too many pliable lawmakers, an initial draft of S. 578 was known as TGEEI (Tribal Governance and Economic Enhancement Initiative). The goal was, and is, to forge legislation to overturn decades of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which have consistently limited quasi-dependent Indian sovereignty of tribal government authority and jurisdiction to enrolled tribal members and tribal properties only.
The Supreme Court has preserved tribal reservation "sovereignty" as a shield against unwarranted intrusion by federal, state and local governments. The Supreme Court, however, does not condone quasi-dependent Indian "sovereignty" to be used as a sword to govern, regulate, tax and adjudicate the fate of other American citizens.
At least four senators, two of them high-ranking in seniority and leadership posts named at the beginning of this report, would now legislatively arm Indian tribes with swords of unwarranted authority over other citizens, and their lands, farms and businesses, if they're anywhere within, near or just traveling through "Indian Country."
In Atkinson v. Shirley, decided May 29, 2001, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously (9-0) that a tribe may not tax a non-member.
In Hicks, decided on June 25, 2001, the Supreme Court again ruled unanimously (9-0) that a state's jurisdiction does not end at a reservation border, and that Indian reservations are part of a state's territory.
These two rulings have inspired the NCAI, championed by Senator Inouye, to utterly negate the common law foundation of our country as defined by the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court. Senator Inouye calls this "payback." It's rapidly approaching treason. With abundant money ($12 to $13 billion last year) spewing forth from over 400 major Indian casinos, tribal government political influence and litigation power now abounds.
Adding monetary momentum, tribal governments were intentionally spared compliance with any Campaign Finance Reform limits.
Even Senator John (campaign finance reform) McCain told a Boston interviewer that he could imagine each casino-licensed and federally recognized tribe possibly contributing as much as $500,000 to political candidates in any one election.
If enacted, Senate Bill 578 or similar legislation, will deprive several million people, some of whom live near -- and others that legally own property in -- "Indian Country," of their constitutional rights, by accomplishing the following: 1) elevating tribal sovereignty to the status of states; 2) extending tribal governance and tribal court jurisdictional authority over all persons within the exterior boundaries of Indian reservations.
With "state" status, will tribes now require two senators and their proportion of representatives in the House? Are we headed for 562+50 states in our "One Nation Under God?" In Senate Bill 578, for Homeland Security purposes, Indian Tribes would additionally have access to data, funding and security resources afforded to states, simply because about 25 of some 562 tribes have some reservation land adjacent to U.S. borders.
The perpetrator of all this race-based divisiveness is Congress and elected officials in all of our states, who keep passing legislation and funding programs that pit one American against another. Congress has determined that Indian policy is not race-based; it's political.
President John F. Kennedy and Ward Connerly have both been right. In our open-door, melting-pot society, race has no more place in government than does religion. Congressmen that fail to see this must be voted out of office.
I like to imagine an America wherein the U.S. Census data no longer contains 227 ethnicity boxes that set up unequal and unfair federal funding programs. What if our tax dollars were distributed to American households based solely on a household's annual income and economic need -- and nothing else? So-called "cultural diversity" is a now a dangerous dinosaur.
A useful behemoth once, diversity has been perverted to trample all over guiding principles that all men and women are equal at their creation. Diversity, like an overfed and insatiable dinosaur is no longer politically correct. It is politically corrupt. It is corrupting the America that was forged by our Founders.
We should genuinely desire to be individually accountable to cherish our cultures and ancestry without demanding government dollars to do so.
How much honor do I bring to my Cherokee ancestry if I claim that the only way that I can honor my ancestry is if the federal government pays me?
My ancestors were hard working, struggling folks, some of whom walked the Cherokee Trail of Tears.
No one needs to pay me to honor that. I honor my ancestors because they were wondrous survivors, and it's the right thing to do. No one owes me a thing, not a single thing.
My country owes me nothing.
My life today is absolutely what I make of it. My life is up to me, to succeed or fail.
But the irony of all of this is that I owe my country everything.
I must participate as a citizen, as a part of "We The People" to ensure that my freedom and equality passes on to my grandchildren.
My country owes my grandchildren nothing. But I owe my grandchildren the opportunity to grow up in the land of the free, the home of the brave, and "One Nation Indivisible," -- not 562+ balkanized "nations."
When you wake up tomorrow morning, be sure to keep the citizen within you alert because the fabric of American government is in tatters. It's no longer enough to occasionally vote and hope for the best. The most dangerous weapon facilitating the undoing of America is the indifferent or ignorant voter, who just lock-steps with a political party and has no clue as to the decisions being made by elected officials.
If Congress, the NCAI and Indian tribal governments would limit federal Indian policy and tribal authority to "self-determination," of its members and properties only, what remains of America could be preserved. Greed is by its nature insatiable, however. So, perhaps the time has come to ask some very hard questions:
What would happen if tribalism were no longer an allowable form of government within the borders of the United States? Short answer: Full U.S. Constitutional rights would be restored to all American Indians who lost these rights upon their tribal enrollment. American Indians are already citizens entitled to the same resources that every other citizen receives. American Indians would simply, upon any given need, contact the very same local, county, state and federal resources provided for all Americans. The loss of tribal governments would be deemed severe by corrupt tribal leaders, undoubtedly. Too bad. Wherever Indian casino operations were accountable to existing state and federal taxing authorities and regulators, the gaming industry would also be discomforted. Too bad, again. Tribal governments could be converted to nonprofit corporations, with no government authority, allowed to succeed or fail, based upon leadership and economic skills of Indian corporate boards. All existing federal and state programs would remain available to eligible American Indians.
American Indian ancestry should be revered, honored, cherished and preserved for all time because American Indians need to and want to do so, not because they're paid to. We can no longer afford to be dormant. "We The People" must never rest. You should be encouraged to become, and remain, an informed, active citizen who reads, studies, phones, faxes and e-mails elected officials with requests for their views and their help. I hope that you will help all of us across the country talk openly, freely and incessantly about spreading "holes" of tribalism in American government, called "Federal Indian Policy." I encourage you to keep up all individual and collective effort to preserve our United States as One Nation Under God -- forever indivisible.
Elaine Willman is the Chair of Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA).
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