( from, “For what it’s worth,” by Buffalo Springfield.) Are we seriously paying attention to what’s going on? We have a President who really believes he is a king and has so many Kool-Aid drinkers following him around. This is a dangerous moment for America and a dangerous moment for Native Americans.
Termination era based thinking is creeping through this administration and the courts are displaying their own brand of termination acts. Just ask the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. In a decision made by the Interior Department; more specifically by the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Indian affairs, Tara Sweeney, the Mashpee Tribe was told it could not have its homelands restored through the land into trust process (as provided for under the Indian Reorganization Act, passed by Congress in 1934.)
Sweeney told Tribal Leaders at the National Congress of American Indians annual meeting, that she had no choice in doing so. She based the decision on the Carcieri v, Salazar, previously handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court ten years ago. In that case, the High Court said in part, that DOI could not take land into trust for the Narragansett Tribe since it was not (emphasis added) federally recognized in 1934 when the IRA was enacted into law. While the ruling applied just to the Narragansett Tribe, the possible scope of the decision could be far-reaching.
Case in point–the Mashpee decision by the BIA was based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Carcieri, even though there is no requirement that the Court’s decision be applied to other Tribes. The Trump administration so far has placed land into trust at an extremely so pace– about 12,000 per year which compares to the 60,000 acres per year during the Obama administration.
States and local governments are also getting involved and there are increasingly more examples of litigation involving other Tribes. The big question is will the BIA continue to apply the Carcieri standard as it makes determinations on other land into trust applications? Will the Justice Department defend Tribes in future litigation? The Mashpee decision just may be the precedent. As Tribes struggle to restore their land bases, they may no longer be able to count on the “Trustee” to look out for and protect Tribal interests.
In a similar vein, the Indian Child Welfare Act is under attack, which means Tribal Sovereignty is under attack. A recent federal district court ruled that ICWA was unconstitutional because it (the court) believed ICWA is raced based. Our children were stolen from us in the past, continue to be stolen from us now and if the ICWA ruling is upheld, it will be nothing short than a purposeful attempt to break down our families and thusly our communities. The purpose of ICWA was to protect and preserve our children and families and now the future is unclear.
This case may be appealed and there may be no way to keep it away from a very decidedly ultra conservative court. Aren’t Republicans all about family values? Apparently not Indigenous families.
Our Sovereignty, our children, our culture and our future is under a direct threat. We need to turn out and vote to put an end to this blatant racism.