NATIVE ISSUES AND OTHER MATTERS: RECOGNITION, GOVERNANCE, FEDERAL INDIAN LAW,  UNITY -- AND MUCH MORE  [HUNTER GRAY  MARCH 14, 2003]  UPDATE NOTE  JULY 22 2008

Note by Hunter Bear:  These are posts that I have made via an interesting discussion on the SNCC list -- and posted widely.  All have been made in the March 12-14 period.

 

Post # 1

Just a very quick word into an interesting and worthwhile
colloquy:

Unlike most of the almost 600 Native tribal nations in what's called the
United States, the Shinnecock Nation -- or Tribe, as many Native persons
still prefer term-wise -- is not Federally-recognized and has no BIA
relationship via Federal treaty or other special relationship nor does it
draw any Federal Indian services [ e.g., health, education,  economic,
criminal justice, trust protection.] It is formally recognized by the State
of New York.  This certainly does NOT mean the Shinnecocks are any "less"
Indian -- but it's simply a vagary of History. Bureaucratic "recognition"
doesn't make a "nation" or "tribe" -- that comes from the Creator and the
People -- but Federal recognition does mean important services, though
they are never enough.

There have been a fair number of non-Federally recognized tribal nations --
mostly in the East.  Although
it's always a struggle, more and more are securing Federal recognition.
The very large Lumbee Nation of North Carolina is on the brink of
finally -- now that Jesse Helms is gone -- achieving that status.

There are a couple of very contemporary published
articles of mine on the general Native situation and the range of attendant
issues and proposed approaches.  They're  available through this website
link: http://www.hunterbear.org/nativeamericans.htm

Native factionalism, of course, is very complex, can be mercurial, and what
often appears one way to someone not of that society can actually be
something else.  But there is always a very basic  and resilient unity
within the tribal nation -- although it can become strained.
Most Native elected tribal councils are quite honest -- and so are the
traditional forms of governance which are still found in many Native
settings as well [e.g., the Life Chiefs.]

And there are many Native views on casinos.  Here's a post I made on that
early last summer:

Note by Hunter Bear:

A short and as-always friendly response by Eric Kirk to a Redbadbear post of
mine -- regarding a NYC-based website that's anonymously attacking Native
casinos in Connecticut -- made reference to what can frequently be the
negative effects of gambling. Here's my response:

==================

I don't think we are that far apart at all on the casino thing, Eric. I'm no
Puritan -- but I'm not a money gambler. Never have been -- except, say, for
very small stakes blackjack etc. I have a relative by marriage who has lost
huge amounts at the Mescalero casino in Southern New Mexico.

My basic point is that a Native nation has the sovereign right to own and
operate a casino or casinos. I don't agree at all with the 1988 Indian
Gaming Act which requires a tribe to reach mutual accord with a state [nor
the related 1996 USSC Seminole decision which makes it easier for a state to
refuse.] Those I see running directly counter to Worcester v Georgia
[1832] -- the headwaters Cherokee Nation case -- which excludes state
jurisdiction from Indian Country.

In addition to having the right to own and operate casinos, tribes have
benefited to some extent from all of this -- though not nearly as much as
some non-Indians think. And in many cases, the casino situation has led to
much intra-tribal factionalism. And some of the factionalism has been
extremely fierce. In addition, outside ripoff artists have occasionally
gotten into the act. I also know of instances where day care facilities have
been opened directly across from a casino -- and people, having dumped their
kids, then spend their entire days gambling as long as the money holds out.

But, again, a Native nation has the sovereign right -- and some of these
ills may simply be transitional growing pains. There is much jealousy and
hostility toward any Native successes on any front.

Several years ago, my youngest son, Peter, then State Editor of the Bismarck
Tribune, did a long series on Native casinos in that general multi-state
Western region. I hadn't realized how elaborate some of these creations had
become. We went together to the then new one on the Standing Rock Sioux Res
south of Bismarck. Its outside appearance was rather garish -- hardly in
keeping with the somber nature of that general setting. Inside, and it was
spectacular, we saw people, mostly Anglos, going from slot to slot --
vacant-eyed. We had buffalo burgers [quite good] and looked around a bit
more. Pete lost one dollar on a slot. Then we stepped to the front of the
place and, with loud rinky dink music continuing, Pete called my wife, Eldri
on our cell phone, and told her we were at the Standing Rock Casino and that
I had suddenly gone berserk and was gambling wildly.

"I can't stop him," he said. "I tried and he just pushed me away!"

Eldri panicked, then recovered. "But he doesn't have that much cash with
him," she said desperately. "He really can't go very far on that."

"True, Mom," said Pete. "But -- But he's got all the credit cards --
including the American Express one."

At that point, I decided we'd gone far enough. Eldri claimed later that, if
it hadn't been for the music, she wouldn't have been pulled into our yarn.

Traditional on Casinos --

Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
www.hunterbear.org (social justice)
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´

_______________________________________________

Post # 2:
 

Dear Ed [Dubinsky]:

Thanks for your note.

"Tribal council" is a form of governance now very broadly used in Native
settings -- and, in no way, is restricted to that majority of tribal nations
which are Federally-recognized.  In the Old Time,  the term "Council" [in
any one of the vast number of Native languages and English and French and
Spanish and Russian as well ] tended to be generally used to describe Native
governance.  During the FDR era, the genuinely excellent Indian
Commissioner, John Collier, pushed through the Indian New Deal which, among
other reforms, saw the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Among its many
provisions, it implemented the elected tribal council system.  The term,
"tribal council," which had been used before that in various situations,
then became a very frequently found term -- in virtually all tribal nation
situations [Federally-recognized and otherwise] in the 'States. ["Band
council", as you know, is the Canadian counterpart -- and has even much
older legal origins in that country.]

A tribe, always closely knit, is indeed a  Nation and an inherently
sovereign one. But it's also One Big Family where virtually everyone is
related someway by blood or marriage.  The tribal clan systems -- which, in
many cases, prevail in their traditionally intact form to this day, or at
least as consistently functional understandings, prevent incest.  In that
kind of cohesive context -- gemenischaft, if you will --  basic democracy
[even if occasionally challenged!] ultimately prevails and the elected
tribal councilpersons are, in the last analysis, far more honest than many
of their Anglo counterparts.  Of course, there are abuses -- and a few are
heavy -- but they don't endure.

I have had, virtually from birth, an enormous amount of respect for the old,
traditional council forms:  e.g., the Life Chiefs.  But the elected tribal
councils -- and the band councils of Canada -- abound with honorable and
committed persons as well.

Among our oldest and dearest friends is Susan Kelly Power, Standing Rock
Sioux, and her daughter, Susan Mary Power, author of the best selling novel,
The Grass Dancer [1994] and other fine works.  Susan's mother, Josephine
Kelly, was the first woman elected tribal chairperson after the passage of
the Indian Reorganization Act.  Twice, rolling her own cigarettes, she led
her tribal council from North Dakota to Washington, DC to Raise Hell with
the Feds -- literally hitch-hiking there, holding press conferences at every
town on the way that had any kind of newspaper. [The government was happy
each time to pay their train fare back to Bismarck!]

What follows is a post of mine from a year ago which, discussing various
things, does deal with the development of John Collier as an enormously
committed, vigorous advocate for Native people.

Note by Hunter Bear:

The more functional sovereignty any Native tribal nation can maintain and
can regain and preserve -- and continue to expand -- the better. But this
present Taos, New Mexico matter, discussed in the attached short article,
is simply a broadening legal recognition of long-standing, traditional
jurisdiction. Some Anglos may see the sky falling, but I doubt very much
that most people of whatever ethnicity are flying into hysterics. Indians
certainly are not -- and I imagine most long standing non-Indian residents
of Taos aren't, either.

Taos has always had its fascinating moments. This is precisely why Mabel
[Ganson] Dodge left New York and her salon with its colorful and
challenging entities and came to Taos as the United States was becoming
enmeshed in World War I. She emerged, in soon due course, as Mabel Dodge
Luhan via her marriage to the excellent Native [Taos Pueblo] artist, Tony
Luhan. And she was followed by a flood of artists and writers, some much
better than others. And, as I've noted in previous posts, she brought her
old pre-War friend, John Collier, out to New Mexico as a long-term guest.
He arrived, knowing virtually nothing about Native tribal nations and
cultures and the compelling problems they faced [and continue to face] --
but he left Taos and the Luhans with his new, and very sturdily enduring
life-long commitment to Native people.

That splendid commitment by John Collier was, with whatever few mistakes,
reflected in his excellent work with his American Indian Defense
Association -- which he founded following his visit at Taos. Through this,
Collier, also a close friend of Eleanor Roosevelt who he interested mightily
in Indian concerns, pushed for repeal of the massively land-stealing Dawes
Act [General Allotment Act] and related measures and policies; fought for
the preservation and support of all Native tribes and cultures as living,
vital entities; and pushed vigorously for Native American religious and
political and economic rights. All of these efforts and others were signal
components of his essentially successful Indian New Deal which characterized
his long tenure [1933-1945] as FDR's Indian Commissioner.

Although the Collier policies were savagely attacked from the latter 1940s
through the 1950s, by many of the Western politicians and their Eastern
counterparts and their land hungry oil and mining and lumbering and ranching
constituents -- often using the Cold War atmosphere as their cover to
generate such anti-Native policies as "urban relocation" and
"termination" -- much of Collier's fine work ultimately endured and
prevailed. [As do our Native people!] John Collier's labors all served as
a foundation for -- at whatever glacial pace and occasional set-backs --
newer Native American policy victories [e.g., Indian Self-Determination Act
of 1975 and the National Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 and some
other significant measures.]

I was fortunate as a child and young person to occasionally visit Santa Fe
and Taos -- where my parents had many good friends. En route from Flagstaff
on long narrow highways, we would always stop at Laguna Pueblo [west of
Albuquerque] and then at San Felipe Pueblo [north of Albuquerque] -- where
our friends have been numerous over several generations.

Closer to home, the wintering cow-town of Sedona -- in and below Oak Creek
Canyon and just south of Flagstaff in a warmer clime -- drew a number of
fine artists and writers in the post-World War II era: e.g., Max Ernst,
ground-breaking surrealist from Germany; Cecil Murdock, a fine Kickapoo
Indian painter; Nassan Abiskaroun, very productive Egyptian sculptor;
excellent writer Robert Kittredge; and others. My folks spent a fair amount
of time at Sedona -- as did, in due course, Ned and Jessica Danson from the
Museum of Northern Arizona [ the people also known as the parents of present
actor, Ted Danson.]

My Native father's ties with Indian Mexico were dramatically forged at an
early age. Jean Charlot, a very close, life-long family friend whose life
span [1898-1979] was almost precisely that of my father --exceeding his by
only one year -- and whose trails with Dad's had intersected and paralleled
at many points before he [Charlot] settled at the University of Hawaii, was,
with his, wife Zohmah and children, a very frequent summer visitor of ours
at Flagstaff and a sojourner, with my parents at Sedona -- as well as in the
Hopi and Navajo country. They all spent much time in Mexico. Jean Charlot
was, first and foremost, a Mexican Indian artist. His father, Henri, had
been a French businessman and free spirit who was also an early Bolshevik
sympathizer -- and who'd been, by various vagaries of migration, born and
reared in Russia. Jean Charlot's mother, Anna, was an artist and the
daughter of Louis Goupil, a native of Mexico City who was French and Mexican
Indian. Charlot was a long-time assistant of Diego Rivera [patron of
Trotsky] -- and a colleague and friend, among others, of radical artists
David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco.

In addition to all of these very constructive influences, I should add, I
myself sometimes ran an extensive and successful trap-line northwest of
Sedona in Dry Creek Basin, at the mouth and up into Boynton Canyon and
Secret Mountain -- before I embarked forever on the high seas of Saving the
World.

Regrettably, Sedona has never been privileged -- as has Taos -- to be
immediately adjacent to a Native tribal nation reservation. Perhaps, lacking
those very positive influences, that's why Sedona gradually became inundated
with right-wing types and then New Age Nonsense. Long before that,
virtually all of Sedona's solid folk moved away. My parents sold their
Sedona land. The Charlots continued to visit my folks at Flagstaff -- and
they all went to Mexico -- but they didn't go down to Sedona. After my
father died, my two brothers and I -- with Mother's consent -- sold the
sizeable acreage we held well below Sedona, on Lower Oak Creek, at
Cornville. That setting, too, had become loaded with non-creative
out-of-staters and our old Yavapai Indian friends and small Chicano rancher
amigos had sold their places to Big League Ball Players. We sold our land
to a Phoenix doctor who was grateful to escape.

Nice to see Taos still kicking up its heels. There's much to be said for
the creatively flaring pitchy-pine and the enduring oak-wood fires of
Tradition.

Hunter [Hunter Bear]

Hunter Gray [ Hunter Bear ]
www.hunterbear.org ( social justice )
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´

_______________________________________________

Post #3:

Note by Hunter Bear:

The discussion of certain Native American issues on SNCC leads me to post
this  -- something I did almost two years ago -- when similar issues arose
thoughtfully on another list.

One of the points I make is this:

"Given everything negative that's happened to Native tribes and people, the
"new" tribal councils have become, with whatever starts and stops,
increasingly shrewd, hard-bargaining outfits -- and commendably hard
fighters on a variety of tactical fronts. In recent times, some
traditionalists have begun to work actively with the councils on key tribal
issues and challenges -- and vice-versa. [The situation vis-a-vis Canadian
Natives is roughly similar to that in the 'States.]"

 -- H

===================================================

I appreciate Chris Lowe's very thoughtful comments and his obviously
knowledgeable discussion of African tribalism, some of its general history,
and its myriad of challenges -- all of which certainly parallel at many
points the Native experience in this hemisphere [and that of Fourth World --
tribal -- peoples generally.]

In my post on the matter of Native Americans and the matter of
"progressives," I indicated:

"I have a special problem with "progressive." I suspect that, on this
genuinely good list of several very good lists of which I'm a combatant,
this concern is unique. In Native American circles, both in the 'States and
Canada, "progressive" historically meant those Indians who were basically
outright Government Pets -- finks -- as opposed to the resistant
Traditionals and most of the people. Today, it can often mean those who
support the tribal and band councils implemented by the United States and
Canada [ councils sensitive to government pressures and using Anglo
procedures like Robert's Rules] -- rather than the traditional forms of
governance: i.e., the Life Chiefs [ hostile to the alien US and Canada and
using consensus as the decisional process.] These two systems often exist
side-by-side within the same tribal nation.

"Progressives" push acculturation, frequently Christianity, and can often
be maneuvered by the outside resource and development capitalists and
government forces -- although, fortunately, in recent times the trend has
been toward increased hard-nosed tribal and band council bargaining and
tribal development and control of tribal land and resources.
"Traditionals" -- who vigorously stress the inherent sovereignty of the
tribal nations -- are extremely wary of outside forces, oppose most cultural
change, and are certainly in diametrical opposition to any desecration of
the Earth.

On the other hand, Native factional alignments these days can be quite
complex. And there is always -- in the final analysis -- a very basic unity
within a Native tribal nation -- and among Native people as a whole. Indian
people can come together damn fast and very effectively!"


That was what I previously said. Now, since we've gotten deeper into this,
I should add that those fascinating first years of the 20th century --
that great headwaters of so many radical and social reform movements --
certainly had a Native counterpart: a vigorous Indian rights thrust which,
using the nationally "Progressive" flag of that era, is sometimes known as
the Red Progressive movement. This had no relationship to the
pro-government factions so often called progressive -- but emerged in 1911
as a formal organization: the excellent Society of American Indians [among
its major spokespersons, Arthur Parker, Seneca; Carlos Montezuma, Yavapai
Apache; Marie Baldwin, Chippewa; Charles Eastman, Santee Sioux.] It flowed,
in a colorful and effective fashion, into the 1920s -- and laid much of the
basis for future pan-Indian [inter-tribal] organizations and movements.

While this was proceeding, John Collier, a young New York social worker, had
become part of the extraordinary discussion circle surrounding the
well-to-do Mabel Dodge -- a fascinating group which included, among others,
William D. Haywood and John Reed [ himself a lover of Mabel Dodge.] During
the World War I period, Mabel Dodge moved to Taos, NM and married the
well-known Taos Indian artist, Tony Luhan. In the early 1920s, she invited
Collier to New Mexico where, for the first time, he met Indian people and
Indian cultures. And it was there that John Collier made his great historic
commitment to Native Americans and Native rights.

My basic view of Collier is a friendly one. My parents, btw, had some
contact with him and knew the Luhans -- who I met as a kid.

When he became FDR's Indian Commissioner -- BIA -- [via the vigorous
suggestion of FDR's social conscience, Eleanor Roosevelt], Collier moved,
of course, to push through the Indian New Deal -- and, in a strong sense,
that complex sought to bring together the acculturationists and the
traditionalists.   It was grounded on his very accurate presumption that the
tribal societies and cultures are very much alive and viable -- and must
be vigorously supported -- and Collier moved to end the genocidal
government cultural assimilationist policies and land-stealing allotment
schemes. He recognized the critical nature of Native treaty rights [which,
however oft-tattered, are quite rightly recognized by the US Supreme Court
with all of the other US treaties as part of "the Supreme Law of the
land" ] -- and the necessity of maintaining what Indian land remained --
while building as much of it back as possible. He fought hard for
protection of tribal resources -- land, water, oil and mineral, timber
etc. -- and for tribal development of those resources.

He ended the cruel off-reservation schools for elementary children,
replacing those with on-reservation day schools; and he initiated many
on-reservation boarding high schools to replace off-reservation ones. He
strongly supported bi-cultural curriculums and the creation and profitable
Native sale of first-rate tribal arts and crafts. He worked actively on
behalf of Indian preference in BIA and related hiring.

He ended the government attacks on the traditional Native religions.

He also felt that the traditional forms of governance were not capable of
effectively representing the tribes and he pushed the concept of the elected
tribal council -- with Robert's Rules etc -- as the best form. This, of
course, enraged many traditionalists -- although even many of those most
critical on this issue recognized the value of his work on other crucial
fronts. Traditionalists, not surprisingly, refused to work with the new
councils.

From the beginning, Collier had opposition from the reactionary forces in
Congress -- especially those who wore the collars of the oil and mining and
ranching and land development and water interests. The Indian New Deal
legislation, with FDR's backing, did get through Congress -- however
slimmed. Despite local crises, things moved fairly well until the country
entered World War II -- and Native concerns went very far down on the
administration's priority listing. Collier left the Indian service in 1944
but continued to work on behalf of Indian rights for the rest of his life.

After the War, reactionary forces -- in the Cold War/Red Scare context --
sought to undo the Collier reforms [ just as they were attacking the Wagner
Act via the infamous and utterly vicious Taft-Hartley creature], and
promoted the genocidal policies of urban relocation and termination. The
tribes and their allies fought back, with some eventual success. The '60s
saw the rise of militant Indian movements on the reservations and in the
cities -- and some reforms came:   e.g., the Indian Civil Rights Act of
1968; the Indian Self-Determination Act of 1975 which, with whatever
deliberate speed, has seen more and more tribes contracting with the Federal
government to take over education, health, criminal justice [the Feds
provide the money as they are obligated to do via the treaties -- and the
tribes control and operate the programs]; the National Indian Religious
Freedom Act of 1978, and a very few other gains.

But the cruel Reagan/Bush period and the socially sterile Clinton epoch
have not been friendly to Indian people: major funding cut-backs,
widespread economic deprivation, continuing health crises, capitalistic
attacks on Native land and mineral and water and other resources; attacks
by the states on tribal sovereignty; a bizarre complex of conflicting
jurisdictions in on-reservation criminal justice matters; and much, much
more hideously negative geography that makes up a massive mountain of
challenge for Indian people.

It's brutally clear that the one generally consistent common denominator of
US and Canadian Native policy -- despite the Collier and a very few other
hopeful, subsequent periods -- is certainly far from dead: get rid of
Native people and societies and cultures via assimilationist policies and
practices, erode and end treaty rights and Federal obligations -- and secure
remaining Indian land and resources.

Given everything negative that's happened to Native tribes and people, the
"new" tribal councils have become, with whatever starts and stops,
increasingly shrewd, hard-bargaining outfits -- and commendably hard
fighters on a variety of tactical fronts. In recent times, some
traditionalists have begun to work actively with the councils on key tribal
issues and challenges -- and vice-versa. [The situation vis-a-vis Canadian
Natives is roughly similar to that in the 'States.]

To come back to "progressive" for a moment, the term is used little today --
if at all -- among Native people in the 'States and Canada. But the basic
dichotomy -- acculturationists v. traditionalists is still widespread. But,
again, as I've indicated -- this is always in the context of the very basic
unity of Native American tribes and people. And there are bridges over this
canyon that are developing between the two basic perspectives.

I certainly see a democratically socialist system as offering Native
people -- and all others -- the best of the good life. But Native American
people are going to have to make all of the decisions that affect them and,
on that, I believe there is now almost universal agreement in Indian
country.

We certainly need all of the help from non-Indians that we can get.

Chris Lowe asked me two good questions:

How do you see the relation between tradition and self-determination?
How do you understand what constitutes "authenticity" in tradition, and
who should decide that, how?

My answers:

The traditionalists have always been vigorously committed to the inherent,
natural sovereignty of the tribal nations and thus have always supported
self-determination at every juncture. However, with the "new" councils
becoming increasingly tough and hard-nosed, they, too, strongly support
self-determination and a substantial expansion of the currently "limited"
sovereignty suffered by the tribes as a result of Anglo incursions. Here,
all Natives are joined in an essentially common cause and thrust.

Remember, of course, that self-determination without full treaty rights adds
up to "termination" -- the destruction of the Indian tribes. Treaty rights
are absolutely crucial.

There are always disputes about "authenticity" of tradition and quarrels
over who should decide that and how. In every tribe -- and in most urban
Indian communities -- there are old people who are genuinely knowledgeable
about the traditions of their respective tribal culture. These are the
final arbiters on matters of traditional authenticity -- and even they do
not always agree! It's worth pointing out that many excellent ,
contemporary Native artisans and crafts-people often blend relatively
modernistic -- even highly abstract dimensions -- into a traditional
context -- and/or vice-versa.

Hunter Gray  [Hunter Bear]
www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

_______________________________________________

Post #4:
 

Again, Ed [Dubinsky], thanks for your note and further questions.  While the
great diversity of tribal nations and cultures -- almost 600 in what's
called the United States -- involves, obviously, a comparable diversity of
experience, this is what generally happened following the passage of the
Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.  [That has many specific provisions
within and, although as someone who taught Federal Indian Law for many years
indeed at the university level, I'm tempted to outline and discuss them all,
I'll spare folks that -- at this point.] Related pieces of legislation
involve the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act [1936] and the Alaska Reorganization
Act [1936].

There are hundreds of Native treaties, about five thousand Federal statutes
relating to Indians, a myriad of Federal regulations, and a slew of Federal
court [mostly USSC] rulings.  Relatively full compilations of the basics of
all of this [e.g., Felix Cohen] now run well over a hundred bucks.  Steven
Pevar of ACLU has done a fine manual which covers much:  The Rights of
Indians and Tribes , Third Edition, 2002.  It's a bit over 300 pages and
costs about fifteen bucks .

The Indian New Deal spearheaded by John Collier was part of the broad New
Deal epoch -- which also featured, among other things, the pro-labor Wagner
Act, Social Security, public works [including the CCC], unemployment
insurance, etc.

The IRA, [also known as the Wheeler-Howard Act] is essentially a fine piece
of legislation -- although it was negatively hacked by Republican
adversaries during its stormy trail of passage.  Its most controversial
pieces by far were the provisions for an elected tribal council, tribal
charters, and essentially standardized tribal constitutions.  The basic [and
essentially successful] thrust of the very complex IRA was to recognize
Native tribal societies as vitally alive administrative and economic and
cultural entities; stop the land-stealing General Allotment [Dawes] Act of
1887 and the comparable Curtis Act [involving Oklahoma] of 1898; consolidate
those allotted lands that remained in Indian hands and place them back into
tribal ownership;  generally build back the Native land base; ensure Native
religious freedom; provide for Native economic self-development; bring
substantial numbers of Native people into meaningful BIA positions.

Collier's Indian New Deal also involved, among other things, the
Johnson-O'Malley Act of 1934 [providing financial assistance to
off-reservation [e.g., urban] K-12  public schools with some Native student
enrollment; and 1935 legislation setting up the National Indian Arts and
Crafts Board to facilitate the creation and effective marketing of high
quality Native work.

Tribal members voted on whether or not to accept those related IRA
dimensions of elected tribal councils, charters, constitutions.  In many, if
not most instances , tribal traditionalists boycotted those elections -- and
most of those tribal members who voted supported the "new system."  This did
NOT mean that the new tribal governments were pliant sell-outs.  Some were
and many -- e.g., the Standing Rock Council of Josephine Kelly which had
many feisty counterparts -- were tough-minded, hard-bargainers from the
outset. And those that were not became so as years -- and sometimes many
years -- passed.  Furthermore, the old traditional systems frequently
continued right along, concurrently and effectively.  And, as I mentioned in
my last post, "bridges" between the two systems often developed
intra-tribally.  There is, after all, a very basic unity among Native
people: within -- and between -- the tribes.

Although much of IRA came to apply broadly and generally, not all tribal
nations bought into the IRA governance proposals. The far flung Navajo
Nation [with its many component family bands] did not in a formal sense.  In
its case, a tribal council system had been arbitrarily and unilaterally
imposed on it  during the Harding administration -- well before FDR and
Collier -- in order to sell-out oil and gas rights in the Four Corners area.
That blatant example of massive corporate theft was one of the major events
that immediately led John Collier to devote his life to vigorous Native
advocacy -- and also convinced him that elected bodies were necessary in
order to deal effectively with the Federal government and the predatory
resource corporations.  That said, the Navajo Council -- despite its
negative origins -- quickly became a very positive and effective fighting
body which it is to the present moment.  Many Pueblo nations, and others,
declined the IRA's governance proposals.  In the end, however, these new
governance approaches  did emerge in various versions even in those settings
in order to facilitate the securing of other provisions of IRA and certain
other Federal services.  And a number of the tribal nations with state
treaties accepted the new forms of governance.

Decision-making in the context of elected tribal councils follows the
basically Western approach of Roberts Rules, etc -- in contrast to the
consensus approach in the traditional forms.  Again that said, the basic
traditional practice of a carefully developed consensus often precedes a
formal meeting of the elected tribal council.

Sovereignty -- which in the full sense involves the full control by a
society of its people and land and affairs -- certainly does come from the
Creator.  But in the legal wars to protect Native rights and to expand what
is now "limited" or "residual" sovereignty, the treaties [delineating many
Native rights and Federal obligations and  setting forth the Native land
base and more] are absolutely crucial -- and very much so when one looks a
century or two ahead.  At this point, limited/residual sovereignty means
that [1] a tribal nation can govern itself administratively and
judicially -- subject to IRA and other regulations and various Federal court
[usually USSC] rulings; [2] tax themselves and tax certain others within
their tribal jurisdiction  [3] handle domestic relations; [4] apportion
tribal property -- e.g., home sites; [5] regulate inheritance; and [6]
determine tribal membership.

A major sector of the Native American rights fight is to continually expand
functional sovereignty to the point that full sovereignty is finally
regained.  But, as I've noted earlier, all of this has to consistently
involve full preservation of all treaty rights.  Self-determination without
treaty rights adds up to "termination," doing enormous and -- over the long
historical pull -- very possibly lethal damage to  tribal nations.

To return for a moment to the initial matter of the Shinnecock Nation [in
New York state.]  It's typical of many very small tribal nations that, sans
Federal recognition, have done a remarkable job of surviving -- with very
limited material resources.  Regardless of how one feels about casinos and
gambling, the casino that much of the Shinnecock Nation wants would -- all
things being equal -- make eminently good sense.  It would serve as an
economic base -- securing much needed revenue for the many services of which
the Shinnecock people, through no fault of their own, are presently
deprived,

And here, from another post of mine, are some related thoughts -- especially
on the very basic matter of Native American unity:

I said, initially, that "Even now, with bureaucratic structures
developing --
artificially and superficially, in many tribal nations -- directly and
indirectly stemming from involvement with the "larger societies" --
the egalitarian, classless ethos is still very primary"

I certainly hold very vigorously to everything I said in my initial post on
this general matter. Efforts to "measure" Native societies and cultures by
Euro-American socio-cultural yardsticks simply don't work and never will.
The sort of rigid class structure that plagues the Anglo world is missing
from that of the Native people. Tribal nations, characterized by a
pervasively complex network of blood and marriage ties [with all of the
conventional prohibitions against incest certainly maintained], are, indeed,
primarily egalitarian and fundamentally classless. Most Indian people,
despite some [ generally small ]income inequities, see one another as equals
and act that way. Then too, with some exceptions [ and, even here, the ties
between the people are fundamentally "horizontal" in the egalitarian
sense ] the basic economic factors, the land and the resources, are
commonly owned. And, while there are certainly degrees of acculturation
within the culture of any tribal nation, there is, first and foremost, a
fundamental commitment to that tribe, then to Native identity in the broad,
inter-tribal pan-Indian sense, and only finally -- and not always -- to,
say, the United States or Canada.

In the Lakota -- Sioux -- context, the terms "mixed blood" and "full-blood"
have less to do with degree of Indian blood but more to degrees of
cultural commitment: the former are often seen as more acculturated and the
latter more traditional. But no one is assimilated -- no one is melted away
via crucible into the so-called American mainstream! And it's worth noting,
that even the civil war situation that prevailed at Pine Ridge in the early
and mid-1970s, did not see the tribe split apart and destroyed. In the
end -- the bloody end indeed -- the Oglala Nation at Pine Ridge continues
right along.

In some tribal societies, there are two forms of governance operating
concurrently: The Life Chiefs, as they are often known -- i.e., the
traditional form -- and the tribal [or, in Canada, band] council structure
imposed by the respective [and alien] Federal governments. But, in a
traditional form of governance, any chief or other leader can be quickly
withdrawn for good cause; and, if you've ever been part of [or even
observed] a tribal or band council-type election, you'll often see
something that will make the recent Florida scene look -- outwardly -- like
the proverbial Sunday School Picnic.

When we lived in Chicago, [where a hundred tribes or so are represented], I
was active as a Native person and volunteer in Native programs on the
Northside. Among other things, I was Chair of the all-Indian Native American
Community Organizational Training Center and a member of the 15 person
Indian coordinating committee for the Great Lakes Indian Resource
Development Program of Americans for Indian Opportunity: Illinois,
Wisconsin, Minnesota,   Our family was very active, too, socially and
politically, in the American Indian Center which was going through a period
of incredible and nationally known factionalism -- right to the brink and
then everyone would pull back just in time and catch their breath. [Much of
this, btw, had been caused by the Anthro department at University of
Chicago.] I was always intrigued by observing how outwardly venomous
combatants could be in our Indian Center disagreements and then [and
regardless, too, of tribal background or blood degree or income levels]
greet one another as long-lost friends indeed when surrounded by the harsh
and alien realities in downtown Chicago. A much older Native mentor of
mine, the late Bill Redcloud [Chippewa] and another older colleague, herself
a founder of the Center, and an enduring close friend to this moment, Susan
K. Power [Standing Rock Sioux], both commented once that "The Whites, when
disagreeing, so often try to completely destroy each other. We Indians
usually stop long before that." Both Bill and Susan certainly recognized
that there are exceptions to this -- but were talking about the general
rule. We had all just come from a wedding where the offspring of one Indian
Center factional leader married the offspring of another -- I was best
man -- with a traditional religious leader blending his Native beliefs with
a few Christian ones to perform the ceremony. A piano was played by a very
leading factionalist who, at that point, had become enamored of
fundamentalist Christianity and was a minister in the Moody Bible Institute
context. Everyone was together.

When the high factionalism of the Chicago Indian Center finally wound up as
an election dispute in an Anglo court, a weary judge eventually ordered that
each side select one Indian person -- just one -- who each side trusted and
who was a full member of the Indian Center -- and that person would set up
and carry out a new election. Each side turned and selected me. [I confess
to having had some trepidation on that one -- but never displayed it, of
course!] I constructed a long, high ballot box which was essentially clear
plastic -- so everyone could see the ballot go down and stay there. When
election time came, March 17 1973, I ordered every Anglo newsperson off
Center property and I stayed by the Box from 8 am to 8 pm -- leaving only
twice for the restroom and, then, leaving observers from all sides watching
each other like the eagles they were. Each factional side fed me well. Some
people came several hundred miles to vote. It was a wild and woolly
election -- Indians who were quite low-income and some doing relatively well
economically -- all clashing and then all gossiping congenially together.
The election, btw, was so honest our side lost. The Center pulled
together -- as Indians always do -- and lived through all sorts of
vicissitudes to survive to the present moment.

The Pequot thing in Connecticut is very unusual and while I don't question
their initial Native origins -- many Indian people do. I don't gamble with
money so I may never get there.

The several hundred casinos in Indian country have made some grassroots
Native people well-off. Government interference, much involvement by
self-serving outsiders, and considerable corruption have been, sadly, all
too common.

And this Native American would be the last, after having been an Indian
all of my life -- and having been involved in a myriad of reservation and
off-reservation and urban Indian and university Indian Studies situations
[and family situations] -- to romanticize anything Indian [ or romanticize
any other human dimension, as far as that goes.] But the fact is that
Native tribal nations and cultures have successfully resisted every
conceivable Anglo effort through the blood-dimmed centuries -- physical
genocide and attempted cultural genocide -- to put them out of business.
Why try so hard to get rid of us? So Euro-Americans can abrogate
long-standing treaty obligations; and so they can seize Native land and
mineral and water resources. The tribal nations have, in the greatest
number of cases historically into contemporary times, been able to resist
all of this in a relatively successful and effective fashion. And we always
will.

And, again, why? Because the tribes are "one big family;" are characterized
by an essential communalism, egalitarianism and basic democracy. They
continue -- whatever the degrees and dimensions of factionalism [oft-induced
by alien -- e.g. governmental -- forces] -- the basic principle of tribal
responsibility -- and keep on keeping on producing people who, in the end,
focus primarily on serving their communities rather than simply serving
themselves.

__________________________________________________________________

A DISCUSSIONAL NOTE [HUNTER BEAR]  JULY 22 2008

Thanks very much, Reber, for posting the critical analysis of certain aspects of Senator Byron Dorgan's "Tribal Justice Improvement" bill.  I've been following the thing to some limited extent and found this assessment helpful.  The draft of the bill given last month, I should add, does nothing to address the signal problem stemming from the 1978 USSC Oliphant decision explicitly denying tribal jurisdiction [on Indian lands] over non-Indian offenders.  This has been a burning issue in Indian country and a hot potato that I'm not surprised Dorgan dodged.  A bit more on him in a moment but first a couple of brief comments touching matters of which you are commendably aware.
 
At this point, there's some concern in some tribal settings about reservation crime -- and some often ungrounded and, frequently, politically self-serving hype about it by many non-Indians.  Aside from the root causes -- e.g., much unemployment and sub-employment on the reservations [and in off-res urban Indian communities as well],  problems in crime control stem significantly from the various  and concurrent  jurisdictional reaches on the reservations: a split between tribal and Federal; and, in a minority of reservation settings, state jurisdiction via PL 280, 1953. [280 is part of the nefarious multi-pronged "termination package" -- the veiled land-grab effort of the early '50s. Most of that Horror is now past history as Federal policy -- coerced urban relocation of Natives and attempted termination of treaty rights etc.  -- but PL 280 remains, as I say, to plague some reservation situations.] 
 
In a word, criminal justice on reservations can be confused and confusing -- and the commitment of the Feds, [and in PL 280 situations] the states, has been extremely uneven to put it mildly.  And the tribes themselves have often been inadequately funded re many programs, including criminal justice --  by the B.I.A. which, of course, has the primary Federal responsibility for delivering That guaranteed via treaties and related agreements.
 
On the other hand, I'm one of a vast number who feel that the reservation settings -- and those off-res urban Indian communities -- are Not "lawless lands" by any stretch.  Primary social controls, especially on the reservations, are generally quite effective.
 
The concept of "frontier" has, as far as many Anglos  are concerned, always meant the dividing line between their "civilization" and the "wild and lawless" Indian Country.  To Native people, the concept of frontier means the exact opposite -- orderly societies in the tribal world, chaos in that of the non-Indians.
 
Ultimately, full tribal criminal and civil jurisdiction must be restored -- in the context of bona fide sovereignty -- to and within all of the Indian lands.
 
I've had some contact with Byron Dorgan. Although North Dakota is often considered a "red" state, its Congressional delegation is Democratic: Senators Dorgan and Kent Conrad and Representative Earl Pomeroy. [The Republican party in the state is moderate in nature.]  Dorgan is considerably better than Conrad and Pomeroy -- but his sometime "liberalism" is cautious and his "pragmatism" frequently opportunistic.
 
As Ever, H.

 

HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]   Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'
 
Check out our Hunterbear website Directory http://hunterbear.org/directory.htm
[The site is dedicated to our one-half Bobcat, Cloudy Gray:
http://hunterbear.org/cloudy_gray.htm
 
SEE MY COMBINED COMMUNITY ORGANIZING PIECES -- WITH MUCH NEW STUFF  HUNTER GRAY/JOHN R SALTER, JR [HUNTER BEAR]  SEPTEMBER 5 2004 -- AND WITH NEW INCLUSION:  THE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER AS PRACTITIONER, TEACHER, WRITER AND STUDENT [HUNTER GRAY -- FEBRUARY 19 2008]  ALL OF THIS MUCH REPRINTED - PLUS MANY  NEW COMMENTS
http://hunterbear.org/my_combined_community_organizing.htm
 
Wobbly Mentor:  http://hunterbear.org/wobbly_mentor.htm
See Forces and Faces Along the Activist Trail:  http://hunterbear.org/forces_and_faces_along_the_trail.htm



 

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