Tag Archives: Native Americans

Obama: A full partnership with Indian country

http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/opinion/33211544.html

By Barack Obama
Story Published: Oct 24, 2008
For 20 months now, I’ve traveled this country, often talking about how the needs of the American people are going unmet by Washington. And the truth is, few have been ignored by Washington for as long as American Indians. Too often, Washington pays lip service to working with tribes while taking a one-size-fits-all approach with tribal communities across the nation.

That will change if I am honored to serve as president of the United States.

My American Indian policy begins with creating a bond between an Obama administration and the tribal nations all across this country. We need more than just a government-to-government relationship; we need a nation-to-nation relationship, and I will make sure that tribal nations have a voice in the White House.

I’ll appoint an American Indian policy adviser to my senior White House staff to work with tribes, and host an annual summit at the White House with tribal leaders to come up with an agenda that works for tribal communities. That’s how we’ll make sure you have a seat at the table when important decisions are being made about your lives, about your nations and about your people. That’ll be a priority when I am president.

Here’s what else we’re going to do. We’re going to end nearly a century of mismanagement of the Indian trusts. We’re going to work together to settle unresolved cases, figure out how the trusts ought to operate and make sure that they’re being managed responsibly – today, tomorrow and always.

Now, I understand the tragic history between the United States and tribal nations. Our government hasn’t always been honest and truthful in our dealings. And we’ve got to acknowledge that if we’re going to move forward in a fair and honest way.

Indian nations have never asked much of the United States – only for what was promised by the treaty obligations made to their forebears. So let me be absolutely clear – I believe treaty commitments are paramount law, and I will fulfill those commitments as president of the United States.

That means working with tribal governments to ensure that all American Indians receive affordable, accessible health care services. That’s why I’ve cosponsored the Indian Health Care Improvement Act in the U.S. Senate, and that’s why I’ve fought to ensure full funding of the IHS so that it has the resources it needs.

It also means guaranteeing a world-class education for all our children. I’ll work with tribal nations to reform No Child Left Behind and create opportunities for tribal citizens to become teachers so you can be free to educate your children the way you know best. We’ll increase funding for tribal colleges. And I will make Native language preservation and education a priority.

To give families in our tribal communities every chance to succeed in a 21st century economy, I will cut taxes for 95 percent of all workers, invest in job training and small business development, and put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads, schools and bridges.

And I will never forget the service and sacrifice that generations of American Indians have given to this country. We have to keep our sacred trust with Indian veterans by making sure that no veteran falls into homelessness, and that all our veterans get the benefits and support they have earned.

Let me just close by saying this. I was born to a teenage mother. My father left when I was 2 years old, so I never knew him well. I was raised in Hawaii by a single mother and my grandparents, and we didn’t have a lot of money – we even turned to food stamps at one point just to get by.

Where I grew up, there weren’t many black families. So I know what it feels like to be viewed as an outsider. I know what it’s like to not always have been respected or to have been ignored. I know what it’s like to struggle.

Every president is shaped by his own experience. These have been mine. And so I want you to know that I will never forget you. The American Indians I have met across this country will be on my mind each day that I am in the White House. You deserve a president who is committed to being a full partner with you; to respecting you, honoring you and working with you every day. That is the commitment I will make to you as president of the United States.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is the Democratic candidate for president.

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Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr. and More Than 100 Tribal Leaders Endorse Barack Obama

Chicago, IL  –  Today, the Obama campaign announced that Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., and more than 100 Tribal Leaders have endorsed Barack Obama for President.  These endorsements come from tribes across the political spectrum and from all corners of the country.  The Navajo Nation is the largest North American Indian Tribe, comprised of approximately 300,000 members located around Southeastern Utah, Northeastern Arizona and Northwestern New Mexico.
Senator Obama said, “I am honored to have the support of President Shirley and so many of our tribal leaders.  Their commitment to public service is something that every American should be proud of.  Indian tribes in our country face a special set of challenges – from issues of sovereignty to access to affordable healthcare.  I look forward to working with Joe and all of our Tribal Leaders to ensure that we meet these challenges in an Obama-Biden administration.”
“For eight years, we have lived with Federal policies that erode our culture and language and, therefore, attack our very identity as Native people,” said President Shirley.  “It is time for change: a real change!  It is time for the United States of America to truly honor its obligations to its Native peoples.  Senator Obama understands the uniqueness of Native nations and Native peoples – that is why I support Barack Obama to be the next president of the United States.”
In addition to the individual tribal leaders, Senator Obama has received the endorsement of at least seven tribal councils, including the Crow, Rocky Boy and Fort Peck nations and the All Indian Pueblo Council.  He has also been endorsed by the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association.  Earlier this year, Senator Obama became an honorary member of the Crow Nation.
Tribal leaders that have endorsed Senator Obama are:
·        Chief J. Allan, Chairman, Coeur d’Alene Tribe
·        Dave Archambault, Jr., Councilman, StandingRock Sioux Tribe
·        Floyd Azure, Tribal Executive Board, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Ft. Peck Reservation
·        Dorothy Barber-Redhorse, Vice-President, Sanostee Chapter, Navajo Nation
·        David Z. Bean, Councilman, Puyallup Tribe of Indians
·        Harriett Becenti, Council Delegate, Navajo Nation
·        Lorenzo Bedonie, Council Delegate representing Hardrock/ Pinon Chapters (Arizona), Navajo Nation
·        Elmer Begay, Council Delegate, Navajo Nation
·        Garrett Big Leggins, Vice- Chairman, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Ft. Peck Reservation
·        Richard Bird, Jr., Councilman, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
·        Cedric Black Eagle, Vice-Chairman, Crow Nation
·        Rodney Bordeaux, President, Rosebud Sioux Tribe
·        William “Shorty” Brewer, Vice-President Oglala Sioux Tribe
·        Theresa Bridges, Chairwoman, Franks’ Landing Indian Community
·        Joe Brings Plenty, Chairman, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
·        Donna Buckles-Whitmer, Tribal Executive Board, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Ft. Peck       Reservation
·        Diana Buckner, Chairwoman, Ely Shoshone Tribe
·        Ronald Charles, Chair, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe
·        Abe Chopper, Tribal Executive Board, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Ft. Peck Reservation
·        Thomas Christian, Tribal Executive Board, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Ft. Peck Reservation
·        M. Brian Cladoosby, Chairman, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community
·        Robert Cournoyer, Chairman Yankton Sioux Tribe
·        Gene Culbertson, Tribal Executive Board, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Ft. Peck Reservation
·        Gerald L. Danforth, Former Chairman, Oneida Nation of Wisconsin
·        Herman Dillon Sr., Chairman Puyallup Tribe of Indians
·        Ron Duke, Tribal Council Representative, Oglala Sioux Tribe
·        Peter Dupree, Tribal Executive Board, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Ft. Peck Reservation
·        Andy Ebona, Councilman Douglas Village, Tlingit Tribe, Alaska
·        Ian Erlich (Native Village of Kotzebue) – Vice Chairman, Alaska Inter-Tribal Council
·        Ingrid Firemoon, Tribal Executive Board, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Ft. Peck Reservation
·        Leonard Forsman, Chairman Suquamish Tribe
·        Jerry Freddie, Council Delegate, Navajo Nation
·        Marlin Fryberg Jr., Secretary, Tulalip Tribes of Washington
·        Margaret Gates, Councilwoman Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
·        Shawna Gavin, Secretary, General Council of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
·        Alison Gottfriedson, Councilmember, Franks’ Landing Indian Community
·        Arlyn Headdress, Tribal Executive Board, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Ft. Peck Reservation
·        Ron His Horse Is Thunder, Chairman, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
·        Wesley “Chuck” Jacobs, Tribal Council Representative, Oglala Sioux Tribe
·        Michael Jandreau, Chair, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe
·        Michael R. Johnson, Chair, General Council of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
·        Richard Kirn, Tribal Executive Board, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Ft. Peck Reservation
·        Ronald “Smiley” Kittsen, Councilman, Blackfeet Nation
·        Shelly Luger, Vice Chairwoman, Spirit Lake Tribe
·        Cynthia Lyall, Chairwoman, Nisqually Indian Tribe
·        Michael Marchand, Former Chairman, Conf. Tribes of the Colville Reservation
·        Robert McGhee, Councilman, Poarch Band of Creek Indians
·        Jesse McLaughlin, Councilman, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
·        Joseph McNeil, Jr., Councilman, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
·        Christopher Mercier, Councilman and former Chairman, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde
·        Kenneth Meshigaud, Tribal Chairperson, Hannahville Potawatomi
·        James V. Miles, Councilman Puyallup Tribe of Indians
·        Elmer L. Milford, Council Delegate representing Ft. Defiance Chapter (Arizona), Navajo Nation
·        John Miller, Chairman, Pokagon Band of Pottawatomi
·        Antone Minthorn, Chair, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
·        Armand Minthorn, Council Member, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
·        Jeff Mitchell, Council Member, Klamath Tribes
·        Robert Moore, Councilman, Rosebud Sioux
·        Wayne A. Newell, Passamaquoddy Indian Township Tribal Council Member, Passamaquoddy Tribe
·        Ned Norris, Chairman, Tohono O’odham Nation
·        Benjamin H. Nuvamsa, Chairman, Hopi Tribe
·        Darrin Old Coyote, Vice-Secretary, Crow Nation
·        Stuart Paisano, Governor, Pueblo of Sandia
·        Brian Pearson, Secretary-Treasurer, Spirit Lake Tribe
·        Myra Pearson, Chairperson, Spirit Lake Tribe
·        Louis Peterson, Tribal Executive Board, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Ft. Peck Reservation
·        Rick Phillips-Doyle, Sakom/Chief, Passamaquoddy Tribe, Pleasant Point Reservation
·        Matthew Pilcher, Chairman, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska
·        Jennifer Porter, Chair, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho
·        Gloria Ramirez, Councilwoman, Tohono O’odham Nation
·        Darryl Red Eagle, Tribal Executive Board, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Ft. Peck Reservation
·        Kenny Reels, Vice-Chair, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation
·        Sarah Riggs, Vice-Chair, Dilkon Chapter, Navajo Nation
·        George Rivera, Governor, Pueblo of Pojoaque
·        Bobby Robbins, Council Delegate representing Naneez dizi/ Coalmine Canyon Chapters (Arizona), Navajo Nation
·        Andrew Roybal, Tribal Council Member Piro/Manso/Tiwa Indian Tribe, Pueblo of San Juan de Guadalupe
·        Scott Russell, Secretary, Crow Nation
·        Brandon Sazue Sr., Chairman, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe
·        Richard Sebastian, Tribal Councilor, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation
·        Michael Selvage, Chairman, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe
·        Melvin Sheldon Jr., Chairman, Tulalip Tribes of Washington
·        Wink Soderberg, Council Member, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde
·        A.T. Stafne, Chairman, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Ft. Peck Reservation
·        James H. Steele Jr., Chairman, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation
·        J.D. Stone, Speaker of the House, Crow Nation
·        Aurolyn Stwyer, Vice-Chair, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs
·        Ron Suppah, Chair, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs
·        Michael Thomas, Chairman, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation
·        Larry Townsned, Tribal Veteran Service Officer, Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina
·        Leonard Tsosie, Council Delegate, Navajo Nation
·        Lee Juan Tyler, Vice-Chairman, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes
·        Carl Venne, Chairman, Crow Nation
·        William Walksalong, Former President and Tribal Council member, Northern Cheyenne Tribe 
·        John Warren, Councilman, Pokagon Band of Pottawatomi
·        John Weeks, Sergeant at Arms, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Ft. Peck Reservation
·        Marcus Wells, Jr., Chairman, Three Affiliated Tribes
·        Bill Whitehead, Tribal Executive Board, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Ft. Peck Reservation
·        Mike Williams, Tribal Council Member for the Akiak Native Community
·        Jonathan Windy Boy, Business Committee Member, Chippewa Cree of the Rocky Boy Reservation
·        Mervin Wright, Jr. Chairman, Pyramid Lake Paiute
·        John Yellowbird Steele, President Oglala Sioux Tribe
·        Marie Zackuse, Vice Chairwoman, Tulalip Tribes of Washington
*Note: Titles are for identification purposes only.

Navajo Nation president endorses Barack Obama

Read the article here…

http://www.abc15.com/news/local/story.aspx?content_id=f8266edd-b631-49a3-a6be-7c409e305b5b

Native Americans Against Palin: Another Alaskan Native Speaks Out

More and more Native Alaskans are coming forward to tell about their direct experiences with Gov. Palin and her lack of regard for them.  Here is a letter I received today that speaks for itself…

An Alaska Native’s take on his Governor
By Matt Gilbert

Hello. My name is Matt Gilbert. I am originally from Arctic Village, Alaska. I am Alaska Native: Gwich’in Athabascan. I visited Sarah’s campaign office and spoke with her before she became Governor. We talked about the hunting & fishing rights of Alaska Natives. We didn’t get anywhere. She sided with sport & commercial interests, so I never spoke with her again. I knew we’d get no where. She didn’t want to listen. In general, I believe Sarah Palin is another version of Bush, just as inexperienced, but more impulsive. She is very dangerous and scary. People are continuing to support her because she’s beautiful, and this should be a Red Alert for the world. Her purposed policies is to include Georgia into NATO and that would mean all the European countries with all their armed forces will have to go to war with Russia. So she’s willing to ruffle the feathers of a country right next door to her home. Is this who you want as President? You know the scene in the movies when a car or stage coach is about to go over a cliff and you see yourself sliding over? Scary image isn’t it? That’s’ what I’m seeing if Palin gets elected Vice President. Wake up America! Send her back to Alaska. She has plenty of un-finished work here. She hasn’t even gotten funding to move the town of Shishmeraf. It’s falling into the ocean from an eroding coast due to Global Warming, which she wants to fuel more by encouraging more coal and oil development. She fuels the fire, and now they want her to do it on a national level.

Palin has done a lot of irrational things up here as Governor. In the summer of 07’, she Line Item Vetoed a lot of infrastructure projects in rural Alaska. The small town of Eagle spent years trying to get a community center built when they finally got funding, Palin shut it down by her Veto. Even Lawmakers are baffled by her Vetoes. They’ve had Bills well-debated on both sides of the aisle, yet she cuts, cuts, cuts. She supported $15 million to Anchorage’s University’s Sport Complex and cut $1.5 million to an expansion of the runaway teen center. How do you justify that? She supports drilling Off-Shore which would utterly destroy the livelihood of the Inupiaq people on the North Slope. They rely on Whale for subsistence and the development would detrimentally impact those whales. She supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. My people, the Gwich’in have kept this area closed from development for 30 years. No other American Indian tribe has ever accomplished such a feat. If she drills in the Arctic Refuge, it’ll be the end of my culture. We rely on the Porcupine Caribou Herd and if drilling takes place in the Arctic Refuge, our caribou goes and so does our culture. We Gwich’in Athabascans are the last American Indian Tribe in the US that hasn’t been majorly disturbed, heavily impacted, and assimilated. We are the last pure Native American tribe left. We are the last stand for Indian Country. We are the last chapter in American Indian/Anglo American relations. The prior chapters were bad, so make this last chapter a good one and vote for Obama.

Alaska Natives in general are the last group of Native Americans in the United States still depended on a hunting & fishing-based lifestyle where kids and grown-ups go out to fish and hunt to supplement their western diets. It’s crucial we have food off our land because the western foods, processed foods, give us diabetes if we eat them alone. The subsistence foods not only feed our bodies, but our culture, spirit, social lives, and minds. The Western World calls it Subsistence, but we call it our Way of Life. I’m using the word against my well. It gives our lives meaning and keeps us busy. With God’s help, hopefully everyone can understand. Our way of life off the land is everything to us. If we don’t have that we’re nobody, just another group living off the grid, consuming McDonalds, and buying Brand-Named items. We add diversity and richness to the world. Sarah Palin doesn’t care about this. She wouldn’t care if our culture eroded before her eyes. She’s like Nero, sitting in Juneau putting on lip-gloss as Alaskan villages suffer. We’re suffering from fuel costs. We’re suffering from strangulating Fish & wildlife regulations that keep us from surviving off the already scarce wildlife. She has done some things, but not enough. She can ease the Fish & wildlife regulations in order to improve food security in the villages. She can subsidize the villages with the rising fuel costs. The US Government has a Trust Responsibility with its First Americans, the TR requires the Federal/State Governments to ensure we, Alaska Natives, have everything we need to survive. Mrs. Palin has failed miserably at this task. She has a lot more work to do back home.

Her hometown Wasillia has been a hot-bed for racist and Anti-Native attitudes. Anchorage is bad too. Alaska Natives fight discrimination on a daily basis there. Palin isn’t there for them. I read in the Anchorage papers once that a homeless native man froze to death in downtown and some man called it in sounding all casual about it. It’s like the South before the 60s up here. It’s bad. This is the Alaska Sarah Palin maintains and waters for growth. She’s never bothered to change anything because she thinks nothing is broken. As Mayor, she didn’t think anything was wrong with an atmosphere where a native woman had beer bottles thrown at her as she walked down Wasillia. So you have to ask yourself, if she’s willing to ignore the plights and issues of an ethnic group within her town and state, than how much more horrible do you think it’s going to be when she ignores the issues of that same ethnic group or another on a national level?

I believe her popularity comes from her beauty. This society has got to shift itself away from a National Inquirer-based lifestyle to an NPR or New York Times-based lifestyle. Our very world may depend on it. Our hurricanes and disasters are getting worse due to Global Warming, our Stock Market is dangerously shaky, our healthcare is getting so bad it may cause a revolution soon, and the War in Iraq is draining our resources and working families to depression-levels. We need a Change! We need Barack Obama. Not somebody whose reputation is based mainly on image and charm. As an Alaska Native, I see that she doesn’t support our way of life, as a Gwich’in I see that she is willing to end my culture and people for only six more months of oil, and as a Global citizen I see that she is impulsive and inexperienced. Do you want someone like that in charge of a nuclear arsenal? It’s probably already going to take our lifetimes to recover from Bush, if you elect Palin, the consequence are too scary for me to even think about. Please vote for change. Vote for Obama. Vote for Obama.

Alaskan Natives Speak Out Against Palin

By Evon Peter
evonpeter@mac.com
9/8/2008

My name is Evon Peter; I am a former Chief of the Neetsaii Gwich’in tribe from Arctic Village, Alaska and the current Executive Director of Native Movement. My organization provides culturally based leadership development through offices in Alaska and Arizona. My wife, who is Navajo, and I have been based out of Flagstaff, Arizona for the past few years, although I travel home to Alaska in support of our initiatives there as well. It is interesting to me that my wife and I find ourselves as Indigenous people from the two states where McCain and Palin originate in their leadership.

I am writing this letter to raise awareness about the ongoing colonization and violation of human rights being carried out against Alaska Native peoples in the name of unsustainable progress, with a particular emphasis on the role of Sarah Palin and the Republican leadership. My hope is that it helps to elevate truth about the nature of Alaskan politics in relation to Alaska Native peoples and that it lays a framework for our path to justice.

Ever since the Russian claim to Alaska and the subsequent sale to the United States through the Treaty of Cession in 1867, the attitude and treatment towards Alaska Native peoples has been fairly consistent. We were initially referred to as less than human “uncivilized tribes”, so we were excluded from any dialogues and decisions regarding our lands, lives, and status. The dominating attitude within the Unites States at the time was called Manifest Destiny; that God had given Americans this great land to take from the Indians because they were non-Christian and incapable of self-government. Over the years since that time, this framework for relating to Alaska Native peoples has become entrenched in the United States legislative and legal systems in an ongoing direct violation of our human rights.

What does this mean? Allow me to share an analogy. If a group of people were to arrive in your city and tell you their people had made laws, among which were:

1. What were once your home and land now belong to them (although you could live in the garage or backyard)

2. Forced you to send your children to boarding schools to learn their language and be acculturated into their ways with leaders who touted “Kill the American, save the man” (based on the original statement made by US Captain Richard H. Pratt in regards to Native American education “Kill the Indian, save the man.”)

3. Supported missionaries and government agents to forcefully (for example, with poisons placed on the tongues of your children and withheld vaccines) convince you that your Jesus, Buddha, Torah, or Mohammed was actually an agent of evil and that salvation in the afterlife could only be found through believing otherwise

4. Made it illegal for you to continue to do your job to support your family, except under strict oversight and through extensive regulation

5. Made it illegal for you to own any land or run a business as an individual and did not allow you to participate in any form of their government, which controlled your life (voting or otherwise)

How would this make you feel? What if you also knew that if you were to retaliate, that you would be swiftly killed or incarcerated? How long do you think it would take for you to forget or would you be sure to share this history with your children with the hope that justice could one day prevail for your descendents? And most importantly to our conversation, how American does this sound to you?

To put this into perspective, my grandfather who helped to raise me in Arctic Village was born in 1904, just thirty-seven years after the United States laid claim to Alaska. If my grandfather had unjustly stolen your grandfathers home and I was still living in the house and watching you live outdoors, would you feel a change was in order? Congress unilaterally passed most of the major US legislation that affect our people in my grandfathers’ lifetime. There has never been a Treaty between Alaska Native Peoples and the United States over these injustices. Each time that Alaska Native people stand up for our rights, the US responds with token shifts in its laws and policies to appease the building discontent, yet avoiding the underlying injustice that I believe can be resolved if leadership in the United States would be willing to acknowledge the underlying injustice of its control over Alaska Native peoples, our lands, and our ways of life.

United States legal history in relation to Alaska Natives has been based on one major platform – minimize the potential for Alaska Native people to regain control of their lives, lands, and resources and maximize benefit to the Unites States government and its corporations. While the rest of the world, following World War II, was seeking to return African and European Nations to their rightful owners, the United States pushed in the opposite direction by pulling the then Territory of Alaska out of the United Nations dialogues and pushing for Statehood into the Union. Why is it that Alaska Native Nations are still perceived as being incapable of governing our own lands, lives, and resources differently than African, Asian, and European nations?

Let me get specific about what is at stake and how this relates to Palin and the Republican leadership in Alaska and across this country. To this day, Alaska Native peoples are among the only Indigenous peoples in all of North America whose Indigenous Hunting and Fishing Rights have been extinguished by federal legislation and yet we are the most dependent people on this way of life. Most of our villages have no roads that connect them to cities; many live with poverty level incomes, and all rely to varying degrees on traditional hunting, fishing, and harvesting for survival. This has become known as the debate on Alaska Native Subsistence.

As Alaska Governor, Palin has continued the path of her predecessor Frank Murkowski in challenging attempts by Alaska Native people to regain their human right to their traditional way of life through subsistence.

The same piece of unilateral federal legislation, known as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971, that extinguished our hunting and fishing rights, also extinguished all federal Alaska Native land claims and my Tribe’s reservation status. In the continental United States, this sort of legislation is referred to as ‘termination legislation’ because it takes the rights of self-government away from Tribes. It is based in the same age-old idea that we are not capable of governing our people, lands, and resources. To justify these terminations, ANCSA also created Alaska Native led forprofit corporations (which were provided the remaining lands not taken by the government and a one time payment the equivalent of about 1/20th of the annual profits made by corporations in Alaska each year) with a mission of exploiting the land in partnership with the US government and outside corporations. It was a brilliant piece of legislation for the legal termination and cultural assimilation of Alaska Natives under the guise of progress.

Since the passage of ANCSA, political leaders in Alaska, with a few exceptions, have maintained that, as stated by indicted Senator Ted Stevens, “Tribes have never existed in Alaska.” They maintain this position out of fear that the real injustice being carried out upon Alaska Natives may break into mainstream awareness and lead to a re-opening of due treaty dialogues between Alaska Native leaders and the federal government. At the same time the federal government chose to list Alaska Native tribes in the list of federally recognized tribes in 1993. Governor Palin maintains that tribes were federally recognized but that they do not have the same rights as the tribes in the continental United States to sovereignty and self-governance, even to the extent of legally challenging our Tribes rights pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act. What good are governments that can’t make decisions concerning their own land and people?

The colonial mentality in and towards Alaska is to exploit the land and resources for profits and power, at the expense of Alaska Native people. Governor Palin reflects this attitude and perspective in her words and leadership. She comes from an area within Alaska that was settled by relocated agricultural families from the continental United States in the second half of the last century. It is striking that a leader from that particular area feels she has a right, considering all of the injustices to Alaska Native people, to offer Alaskan oil and resources in an attempt to solve the national energy crisis at the Republican Convention. Palin also chose not to mention the connection between oil development and global warming, which is wreaking havoc on Alaska Native villages, forcing some to begin the process of relocation at a cost sure to reach into the hundreds of millions.

Our tribes depend on healthy and abundant land and animals for our survival. For example, my people depend on the Porcupine Caribou herd, which migrates into the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge each spring to birth their young. Any disruption and contamination will directly impact the health and capacity for my people to continue to live in a homeland we have been blessed to live in for over 10,000 years.

This is the sacrifice Palin offered to the nation. The worst part of it is that there are viable alternatives to addressing the energy crisis in the United States, yet Palin chooses options that very well may result in the extinguishment of some of the last remaining intact ecosystems and original cultures in all of North America. Palin is also promoting off shore oil drilling and increased mining in sensitive areas of Alaska, all of which would have a lifespan of far fewer years than my grandfather walked on this earth and which would not even make a smidgen of an impact on national consumption rates or longer term sustainability. McCain was once a champion of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and it is sad to see, that with Palin on board, he is no longer vocal and perhaps even giving up on what he believes in to satisfy Palin’s position.

While I have much more to say, this is my current offering to elevate the conversation about what is at stake in Alaska and for Alaska Native peoples. Please share this offering with others and help us to make this an election that brings out honest dialogue. We have an opportunity to bring lasting change, but only if we can be open to hearing the truth about our situations and facing the challenges that arise.

Many thanks to all those who are taking stands for a just and sustainable future for all of our future generations,

*This essay is a personal reflection and should not be attributed to my tribe or organization

Cherokee Chief Chad Smith Supports Obama

http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Opinion/Opinion.aspx?StoryID=2886

By Principal Chief Chad Smith

Recently, presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Barack Obama was asked to reconcile his open support for tribal sovereignty with his membership in the Congressional Black Caucus. A handful of members of that organization are actively attempting to terminate the Cherokee Nation’s federal recognition and funding, which would eliminate more than 6,500 jobs, strand more than 126,000 people without healthcare, cut off meals to more than 700 elders per week and leave thousands of tribal citizens without housing. In response, his campaign issued the following statement that I would like to share here:
 
“Barack Obama has reiterated his support for tribal sovereignty. Senator Obama said, ‘Tribal sovereignty must mean that the place to resolve intertribal disputes is the tribe itself. Our nation has learned with tragic results that federal intervention in internal matters of Indian tribes is rarely productive – failed policies such as Allotment and Termination grew out of efforts to second-guess Native communities.  That is not a legacy we want to continue.’
 
With respect to the Cherokee Freedman issue, Senator Obama said that while he is opposed to unwarranted tribal disenrollment, congressional interference was not warranted at this point. ‘Discrimination anywhere is intolerable, but the Cherokee are dealing with this issue in both tribal and federal courts. As it stands, the rights of the Cherokee Freedmen are not being abrogated because there is an injunction in place that ensures the Freedmen’s rights to programs during the pendency of the litigation. I do not support efforts to undermine these legal processes and impose a congressional solution. Tribes have a right to be self governing and we need to respect that, even if we disagree, which I do in this case. We must have restraint in asserting federal power in such circumstances.’
 
Obama also reiterated his support for fulfilling the treaty obligations to tribes. ‘The Cherokee Freedmen issue highlights the larger issue of the unfulfilled treaty promises made by the federal government to tribes. It is these promises that Barack is most concerned with as the future president. Barack understands that the federal government owes a legal and moral obligation to tribes to provide health care, education and other essential services to tribes. This is not a handout, but compensation for millions of acres of land relinquished by tribes.’”
 
Senator Obama is right. As an indigenous nation, our sovereignty is inherent and the U.S. government has a legal obligation to recognize our sovereignty.  Treaties are the historical record of that recognition, and show clear proof of an ongoing government to government relationship. 
 
It’s called “federal recognition,” not “federal permission to exist.” We already have a right guaranteed by tribal, federal and international law to exist as a distinct people.
 
And I am also glad that Senator Obama differentiates in his statement between a “handout” and “compensation” for our historical losses as a people. California Congresswoman Diane Watson, who is leading the charge in the CBC to disenfranchise our Nation, seems to want to “stop payment” on compensation owed to us by the U.S. government because she doesn’t approve of a citizenship decision our people had every legal right to make. In the real world, her actions would be considered a violation of the first obligation of the United States in our first treaty in 1785, a government to government relationship. The fact is, Watson refuses to recognize that Congress itself closed the rolls to Freedmen descendants one hundred years ago, and now she wants to coerce Cherokees into granting those descendants today what Congress took away.
 
Reading Obama’s statement makes me hopeful. It is good to know that others can thoughtfully analyze this complex situation and come to the same simple conclusions that we have: Tribes have the inherent right to self-governance, congressional interference is not an appropriate answer, and the place to resolve tribal disputes is the tribe itself.
 
In contrast, much of Watson’s and the CBC’s unwarranted attempts to intervene in our government stem from misinformation. To that end, we have tried to make as much information as possible available so that our citizens and others can read, analyze and make informed decisions based on facts, not emotion. Besides the Cherokee citizenship information that has always been and continues to be updated regularly on http://www.cherokee.org we have also created two new Web sites intended to provide facts about the issue: www.cherokeenationfacts.org and www.meetthecherokee.org.
 
On these sites, you will find a historical timeline, legal documents, videos, opinions from citizens and links to take action to ask Congress to cease any further legislation that will hurt our Nation and our people. I hope you will visit, read the facts and make the decision to support our inherent, legal rights.

Obama Upholds Tribal Sovereignty

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) has stated his opposition to H.R. 2824, an attempt by his fellow Congressional Black Caucus member Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA) to sever government-to-government relations with the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma because of an on-going dispute between the tribe and the “Cherokee Freedmen.”

In a March 13, 2008 Letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, members of the Congressional Black Caucus stated that “members of the CBC will not support, and will actively oppose passage of NAHASDA” unless the bill contains a “provision that would prevent the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma from receiving any benefits or funding” until they extended tribal membership to the Freedmen. The letter contained the signatures of 35 CBC members, but not the signature of White House hopeful Senator Barack Obama. 

Still, the Native American community began raising questions about an Obama Presidency that could potentially support CBC efforts to undermine the rights of tribal governments to determine their own membership.  Asked to clearly state his position on H.R. 2824, Obama’s campaign issued the following statement: 

“Tribal sovereignty must mean that the place to resolve intertribal disputes is the tribe itself,” Obama said. “Our nation has learned with tragic results that federal intervention in internal matters of Indian tribes is rarely productive – failed policies such as Allotment and Termination grew out of efforts to second-guess Native communities.  That is not a legacy we want to continue.”

 With respect to the Cherokee Freedman issue, Senator Obama said that while he is opposed to unwarranted tribal disenrollment, congressional interference was not warranted at this point. “Discrimination anywhere is intolerable, but the Cherokee are dealing with this issue in both tribal and federal courts. As it stands, the rights of the Cherokee Freedmen are not being abrogated because there is an injunction in place that ensures the Freedman’s rights to programs during the pendency of the litigation. I do not support efforts to undermine these legal processes and impose a congressional solution. Tribes have a right to be self governing and we need to respect that, even if we disagree, which I do in this case. We must have restraint in asserting federal power in such circumstances.”

Regarding Sen. Obama also reiterated his support for fulfilling the government’s treaty obligations to tribes. “The Cherokee Freedmen issue highlights the larger issue of the unfulfilled treaty promises made by the federal government to tribes.”  It is these promises that the Senator is most concerned with as the future president.  Sen. Obama understands that the federal government owes a legal and moral obligation to tribes to provide health care, education and other essential services to tribes.  “This is not a handout, but compensation for millions of acres of land relinquished by tribes,” he said.

Those are the words of Senator Barack Obama, but what about his actions?  Native Americans still concerned about an Obama presidency should research the websites of Clinton, Obama, and McCain for an indication of each candidate’s interest in their community.  Clinton and McCain websites have no specific links or information for Native American peoples or issues, while Senator Obama’s campaign has a main page link directly to his website for “First Americans,” at http://www.tribes.barackobama.com.  Further, a look at all three candidates’ campaign teams reveal that Senator Obama has a Native American Community Outreach Coordinator and a 30-member Tribal Steering Committee.  If Clinton and McCain have a Native American presence on their campaign teams, it is well hidden.

Sen. Obama’s opposition to Diane Watson’s legislation will undoubtedly be met with unrest by those of his fellow members of the CBC that side with the Cherokee Freedmen, but Obama appears to be no stranger to the CBC’s disaffections.  Last year, online political publication TheHill.com reported on the CBC’s anger with Obama about rejecting an invitation to debate on Fox News, and added that “Obama has irked fellow CBC members by failing to respond to a request made early last year that he host a fundraiser for the Black Caucus’s political action committee (PAC). [Senator Hillary] Clinton received a similar invitation and quickly followed through by headlining a CBC PAC fundraiser in March of 2006.”  Perhaps this is why the CBC recruited Hillary Clinton and not Barack Obama to be the Guest Speaker at their 37th Annual Legislative Conference, prompting the Washington Times to speculate that the CBC was quietly trying to endorse her bid for the presidency.

Hopefully to the Native American community it is obvious that Obama and the CBC do not have mutual and unequivocal support for one another. He clearly opposes H.R.2824 that was introduced by Diane Watson, who –incidentally- endorsed his rival Senator Hillary Clinton and now serves as an advisor to the Clinton campaign.