When do we grab the bull by the horns?

By: Dr. David GreyOwl,

When do we grab the bull by the horns? As Native people, it is long past time for us to "grab the bull by the horns" and choose our own direction(s). As a people, we have to decide whether we want our destinies to continued to be controlled by non-natives, or whether we want to control our own destinies. Yes, the issue of "tribal sovereignty" through Federal Recognition is a touchy subject, but is "tribal sovereignty" through Federal Recognition all it is cracked up to be? 

I have over the years, heard tribal leaders make statements like " We now have a chance to determine our own destinies" after receiving Federal Recognition. My question to those who believe "tribal sovereignty" is a good thing is: If Federal Recognition is all it is cracked up to be, why do tribes apply to a government body that assumes the right to decide whether you are a tribe or not? Do you not know you are a tribe already? Do you need the blessing of the "Great White Father" to validate who and what you are? The issue of "tribal sovereignty" has become yet another problem for tribes who have sat by and wasted years petitioning a government body to acknowledge them as a tribe. Money has permeated the fabric of tribal culture, and the pursuit of money through per capita payments has deluded many tribal members into believing the less members you have, the more you will collect per individual. This type of mentality has led to tribal dis-enrollments. Most, if not nearly all of those dis-enrollments are, in my opinion, unjust. So, because of such beliefs many dis-enrollments have also come about for political reasons. Understand, this is a slow, deliberate attempt at tribal genocide by your own hands.

Below is an excerpt. to read more.........  http://www.academia.edu/603498/Introduction_Native_Americans_in_American_Politics 


Self-government under Federal Law

One must immediately add qualifiers to the assertion that self-government and institutionalized political independence is the fulcrum of Native Americans in American politics. Native American "sovereignty" is not as complete as the "government-to-government" relationship suggests. Indeed, the first time the United States dealt with Native Americans through the State Department -- the normal vehicle for government-to-government relationships -- was in May, 1996. This was a "consultation" meeting preparatory to the United States taking a position in the United Nations with regard to a Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples under consideration in the international arena. Prior to that meeting, and continuing since, the "government-to-government" relationship consists of Native American governments dealing with the United States through various domestic agencies, primarily the Department of the Interior. From an historical perspective, there was more "government-to-government"dealing when the United States acted towards Native Americans through the War Department, where the first Bureau of Indian Affairs was created (1824), than in the subsequent years when "Indian affairs" became institutionalized as a "domestic" concern.4


A straight-forward legal explanation of the special position of Native Americans in American politics was provided in 1973 by the Federal District Court for the District of Montana, in the case of 

United States v. Blackfeet Tribe

. The facts of the case were simple: The Blackfeet Business Council had passed a resolution authorizing gambling on the reservation and licensing of slot machines. An FBI agent seized four machines. The Blackfeet Tribal Court issued an order restraining all persons from removing the seized articles from the reservation. The FBI agent, after consultation with the United States Attorney, removed the machines from the reservation. A tribal judge then ordered the U.S. Attorney to show cause why he should not be cited for contempt of the tribal court.The U.S. Attorney applied to federal court for an injunction to block the contempt citations. The Blackfeet Tribe argued that it was sovereign and that the jurisdiction of the tribal court flows directly from this sovereignty. The federal court said:No doubt the Indian tribes were at one time sovereign and even now the tribes are sometimes described as being sovereign. The blunt fact, however, is that an Indian tribe is sovereign to the extent that the United States permits it to be sovereign -- neither more nor less. [194]The court explained: While for many years the United States recognized some elements of sovereignty in the Indian tribes and dealt with them by treaty, Congress by Act of March 3, 1871 ... , prohibited the further recognition of Indian tribes as independent nations. Thereafter the Indians and the Indian tribes were regulated by acts of Congress. The power of Congress to govern by statute rather than treaty has been sustained.

United States v. Kagama,

118U.S. 375, 6 S.Ct. 1109, 30 L.Ed. 228 (1886). That power is a plenary power ... and in its exercise Congress is supreme. ... It follows that any tribal ordinance permitting or purporting to permit what Congress forbids is void. ... It is beyond the power of the tribe to in any way regulate, limit,or restrict a federal law officer in the performance of his duties, and the tribe having no such power the tribal court can have none. [Id .] The fundamental definition of "American Indian sovereignty" in United States law, as the District Court made clear, is that it is not really sovereignty. According to the fundamental jurisprudence of "federal Indian law" -- a vast, complex body of United States statutes and court decisions designed to govern Native Americans -- "tribal"peoples have a diminutive form of "sovereignty," which turns out to be not self-determination, but dependence. This theory was articulated by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall in

Cherokee Nation v. Georgia

(1831). Marshall wrote that Native5[sic]

American societies, though they are "nations" in the general sense of the word, are not fully sovereign; he suggested they are "domestic, dependent nations," a phrase suggesting that native peoples are "wards" of the United States, a concept that almost immediately passed from dictum to dogma. Native American sovereignty has been the object of a kind of legal shell game -- "now you see it, now you don't" -- since the beginning of federal Indian law.......