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tribal soveriegnty-- it does'nt exist

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    Featured in Columns & Editorial

    Tribal Sovereignty? It Doesn't Exist

    Published on 9/12/2004

    That George W. Bush cannot define tribal sovereignty does not surprise me. In
    the first place, “sovereignty” is a four-syllable word and he can barely
    speak in complete, grammatically correct sentences. By the same token, all the
    journalists who laughed at his inability to explain what tribal sovereignty
    means would be hardpressed themselves to give a cogent and accurate reply.

    Put yourself to the test and print what you think tribal sovereignty is, as a
    recent lettert writer requested. The difficulty lies in the fact that tribal
    sovereignty is just a term that the government likes to pull out of a hat,
    like a rabbit, whenever it wants to evade the issue of equal rights of Native
    Americans. It does not exist in legal reality.

    The U.S. trust policy makes each tribe a “ward of the state.” All so-called “
    Indian land” is, in reality federal land that Congress has designated to be
    used as “reserves” for Native Americans. Congress, through its plenary powers,
    can terminate a tribe and extinguish Indian land title at any time, in any
    manner, without the tribe's consent.

    Does that sound sovereign to you?

    It gets worse. The U.S. trust policy for Native Americans requires all tribes
    to obtain the approval of the secretary of the Interior for their choice of
    attorney. So, if a tribe wants to sue the federal government, it has to get the
    OK from Uncle Sam on who will represent them. Attorney General Richard
    Blumenthal can explain how this works.

    In 1991, the Connecticut General Assembly voted to approve $30,000 for the
    Connecticut Indian Affairs Council, but when CIAC Chairwoman Paulette Crone
    requested the release of those funds so they could hire an attorney, the attorney
    general refused to release the funds, citing Connecticut's trust agreement.
    There are numerous examples where a tribe was denied the right to legal counsel
    of it choice.

    Does that sound sovereign to you?

    A tribe also must obtain the approval of the secretary of the Interior for
    every business proposal it wants to enter. The U.S. has often expanded its trust
    responsibility to approve of the tribe's choice of legal counsel and simply
    appointed an attorney to a tribe, whether or not one is wanted.

    Usually these are former U.S. attorneys who proceed to accept settlements
    against a tribe's wishes, or who simultaneously represent the tribe and an
    American company with whom they are doing business. One example was the 1950s
    appointment of attorney John C. Boyden, to the Hopi Tribe, to represent them in a
    lease with Peabody Coal, for whom he also served as legal counsel. The tribe got
    25 cents a ton for coal that was sold for $75 a ton.

    When Peabody Coal wanted to expand its coal mining, Sen. John McCain,
    R-Ariz., member of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, did his campaign
    contributor, Peabody Coal, a favor and introduced legislation in 1974 calling
    for the forcible removal of 10,000 Navajo and Hopi with a completion date of
    July 6, 1986.

    It gets worse. One would think if a tribe enjoyed ‘ “sovereignty” it could
    decide on the tribal children's education. Wrong. By the authority of the U.S.
    Trust Policy, Indian children since the early 1900s were forcibly removed from
    their homes and transported long distances to BIA schools where they were
    forbidden to speak their own language on pain of torture.

    By forcibly, I mean the U.S. Cavalry riding out to an Indian village,
    shooting dogs so families could not be warned and breaking the shins of children
    attempting to run away. Parents who refused to give their children up voluntarilly
    were sent to Alcatraz for 10 years.

    Would you call that sovereign?

    And then there's the issue of the military draft and so on, but you get the

    You could ask our two senators and our congressmen to help you define tribal
    sovereignty, but I would wager that their comprehension is as dismally
    unenlightened as that of George W. Bush. It could be amusing, though.

    Kathleen Grasso Andersen divides her time between a home in New London and
    California. She assisted the Hopi Tribe in its formal complaint to the United
    Nations that U.S. trust policy was a legal form of discrimination against Native

    © The Day Publishing Co., 2004
    Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic

  • #2

    Kathleen Grasso Andersen did her homework.

    True "Sovereignty" for Indian tribes is NOT real.

    "Sovereignty is not real if the U.S. Government tells the tribes how to conduct their business as tribal governments and overrules their decisions."


    Every Indian in America needs to know that Congress HAS "Plenary Powers" to eliminate tribal Federal Recognition of any and ALL tribes.

    It probably won't happen in our lifetime . . . but the ability to do so EXHISTS.

    This is why it is vital that you identify public officials who are PRO-INDIAN and VOTE accordingly!
    Last edited by WhoMe; 09-13-2004, 01:39 PM.
    Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.


    • #3
      Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic


      • #4
        It doesn't exist.

        Hello everyone, I just had a quick question regarding this article; For tribal soveriegnty to not exist, where does that leave our generation of politics/activism/educated people to contribute to our tribes? Why hasn't this term been defined instead of defended in it's current state? I live in Republican this is a scary concept to be presented...thanks!
        Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding. Einstein


        • #5
          thank you blackbear for posting that. you have opened my eyes much wider.


          • #6
            I'm not sure why Ten Dore...but I don't understand your question.... I must not be reading it right or something... but I think it has been defined, it just does'nt work out the way it's defined by a dictionary, but defined by how the government likes to explain it.
            Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic


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