Coulter on the Apology Resolution

From the Indian Law Resource Center:

‘No Thanks’ to Congressional Apology

The Senate has just passed a resolution that apologizes to American Indians and other Native Americans for the wrongs done by citizens of this country. But a genuine apology means you won’t do it again, and this resolution does nothing at all to stop or correct the on-going wrongs that the federal government inflicts on Indian and Alaska Native nations.

Unfortunately our government still takes Indian land without paying for it, still refuses to account for the Indian money it holds, still violates its treaties with Indian nations without making amends, and still maintains a body of policy and law that is so discriminatory and racist that it should have been discarded generations ago.

To make a real apology, Congress needs to stop doing the things that it is apologizing to Indian nations and other Native peoples for. Americans generally do not know that the federal government continues to treat tribes and Alaska Native nations this way, and the evidence is that the public does not support or condone this mistreatment.

It is astonishing to most Americans that the federal government is still taking Indian land and resources – without due process of law and without fair market compensation, sometimes with no compensation at all. Of course, the Constitution says that Congress may not take anyone’s property except with due process of law and with fair
market compensation. But these rules are not applied to most land and resources owned by Indian tribes, and the government takes the land and resources at will. Obviously, this is wrong. Today, the government is trying to drive Western Shoshone Indians off their homelands in Nevada without a semblance of due process and with a payment of about 15 cents per acre. This is gold mining land, but that doesn’t make it alright to take it from its Indian owners. There are other present day cases. A few years ago, Congress confiscated part of the reservation that was shared by the Yurok Nation in California and turned it over to another tribe. Congress gloated at the time that it could do this without paying compensation because of Congress’ so-called “Plenary Power” over Indians and their property.

A few years ago, Congress passed a law that orders a fund of money belonging to
nine Western Shoshone tribes to be taken from the tribes and handed out by the Interior
Department to some but not all individual tribal members. The bill was passed over the
objections of most of the tribes.
The Interior Department still will not fully account for Indian funds that it holds.
This national shame is reported regularly in the press. The Department is defying the law,
as it has done for generations. The United States still insists that Indian tribes and in some
respects Indian individuals, are in a state of permanent, involuntary trusteeship, with the
federal government as trustee. No one else in the US is subject to such unaccountable
Congress today insists it can put Indian nations and tribes out of existence at any
time. Indian nations and tribes still have no real right to exist in US law. The threat of
termination is very real. Some small Native tribes in Alaska have recently heard this threat
from congressional sources.
Congress also insists that it may freely violate treaties made with Indian nations.
Sadly this is not a thing of the past. It does this today – regularly. Treaties are contracts,
and the government cannot freely violate its contracts with others, but it does so – often –
in the case of Indian treaties.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of
American States, an international legal body that is officially recognized and supported by
the United States, recently concluded that US policies regarding Indian lands are
discriminatory and constitute a violation of human rights. But the Bush Administration
defied the Commission and the present Administration is still refusing to change the
discriminatory laws it applies to Indian tribes.
This on-going pattern of lawless and arbitrary congressional power over Indians
has resulted in a negative, risky, unpredictable business climate on Indian reservations that
inhibits needed economic development.
To be clear, many of the things Congress is considering apologizing for are still
being done to Indian and Alaska Native tribes and to Native Hawaiians as well. Sadly, the
United States, especially the US Congress, has never given up its insistence on treating
Indian and Alaska Native nations with injustice and discrimination. This is not only wrong
but very bad public policy and wholly out of keeping with American values.
Congress should conduct hearings and adopt a resolution promising never again to
take Indian or tribal property without due process of law and fair market compensation.
The resolution should promise that Congress will never again terminate any Native
American tribe or its government and never again violate or abrogate a treaty with an
Indian nation without making full compensation and correcting all resulting harm to the
Indian nation. Congress must examine and change all federal laws, regulations, and courtmade
law that deprive Indian nations and tribes of constitutional rights. Congress must
pass legislation to assure that the government accounts fully for the Indian money and
property it holds.
Without such commitments from Congress, an apology will be just another offense
against Native Americans. Until the government changes its ways, things cannot be
expected to improve much in Indian country. This is a good time to make the changes.

2 thoughts on “Coulter on the Apology Resolution

  1. Grace October 10, 2009 / 10:26 am

    Apology ? Read This !

    The Honorable Secretary Ken Salazar Department of the Interior Members of the United States Senate

    Dear Sirs:

    I have read with interest the comments and criticisms about recent Bureau of Indian Education actions, particularly at the post-secondary level. I know that employees within that organization have been threatened if they make unauthorized comments to the press; so, I am sure that most of those individuals would not risk their livelihoods to speak up as a single voice.

    This letter is a request to do a thorough investigation of management practices at the post-secondary level, particularly at Haskell Indian Nations University. As a recent Haskell employee, I have information that I will enumerate in this letter. The information should provide a starting point; the information is based on facts I observed or witnessed and on conversations I had with my employees while working at Haskell.

    Unfortunately, Haskell employs a group of about seven individuals who actively work against the administration. This group has been vocal, and since the Bureau of Indian Education ( BIE ) maintains a policy that does not allow administrators to respond, only misinformation, rumor, and innuendos are spread to the public, to the students, and to Congress.

    I agree with a recent blog that said this should be embarrassing to BIE officials; it was embarrassing to me as a native person that the very group of people who should have native students in mind actually worked to create an environment of fictional drama on campus that was detrimental to the University’s attempt to live up to its potential.

    Issues that need scrutiny :


    Dismantling of the federally legislated demonstration Health Education and Wellness Program program.

    Hiring practices at Haskell Indian Nations University and at central office, with oversight of post-secondary.

    Mismanagement of personnel issues at central office ensuring continuation of “hostile work environment.”

    Personnel who “cyber-bully” and promote misinformation to create dissonance.

    Ethics violations, such as advocating for your wife’s hire.

    Dismantling of The RED Center, the only connection to a university Haskell Indian Nations University can claim.

    A private bequest, used as Stephanie Birdwell’s private project account; $3M+ combined for both Haskell and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute. (Specifically, why didn’t the money go to the congressional chartered non-profit the BIE helped establish for the purpose of raising money.)

    Central office’s support of the federal union, rather than its own managers. (Specifically look at the legal effects of dismantling the current negotiated bargaining unit for the entire BIE by setting precedent at Haskell). This doesn’t even speak to the impact on student’s lives.

    Expenditures for dialogue sessions where no one is allowed to talk except Central Office Staff: do these coincide with other travel and is Haskell paying for this idea?

    Dismantling of processes that promote fiscal accountability (saved $150K in food services to see it squandered now) and healthy lifestyles initiatives (try eating in the cafeteria now).

    Lack of follow through on Inspector General referrals for mismanagement of money (when directed by the Inspector General’s office to handle the matter).

    You have many issues in Interior; I wonder where Native American Students fit in your priorities?

    I realize that I will get a form letter back from your staff and that it is highly likely that you will never read this. I am forwarding copies to some of your colleagues in the hopes that someone finally takes the comments about personnel management and supervision seriously. I believe that Ms. Birdwell and others will suggest that you investigate me rather than look at these issues. I am hopeful you will do both.

    I would welcome the opportunity to provide you with incidents.

    Dr. Ted A Wright

    Former Vice President of Haskell Indian Nations University.

    Lawrence, Kansas

  2. Mike Oeser, UW Hastie Fellow October 10, 2009 / 7:53 pm

    I could not agree more with Mr. Coulter’s assessment, but I think it could go farther in terms of what needs to happen to make things right. Indian policy and law has foundational problems. Both sides of the equation (tribal and non-tribal) have created as system that flies in the face of universally accepted principles of sovereignty. Non-Indian laws that unilaterally govern Indian country fly in the face of “government by consent of the governed.” Reservation residents participate in state and federal elections but deny (or at least oppose) the application of the laws and government that result from those elections to reservation lands. This fundamentally conflicts with the American democratic paradigm.

    Participation in a political process amounts to consent to be governed by the products of participation. Participation in more than one government in the absence of something like the 10th Amendment risks the “Imperium in Imperio” problem feared by The Colonial Anti-Federalists. I’m not saying Tribes have to consent to state authority, just that tribes cannot have it both ways. It is an inconsistent, and arguably, hypocritical, position.

    There’s lot more that could be said, but it boils down to this: the only real way to avoid the peicemeal destruction of tribal sovereignty (which is the end result of the “Imperium in Imperio” problem) is for tribes to either incorporate with the state/federal government more (hopefully in a structured way), or separate from it more (meaning giving up the ability to vote in state elections, at least, and reviving tribes’ uniform authority over their entire territory regardless of ownership). Few really like either of those two options. Each has significant costs, but over time the status quo will probably result in the end of tribes by judicial decision (again as The Anti-Federalists predicted and as the history of Supreme Court decisions reflects). That’s a process tribes will have little input or control over.

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