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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

From Spokane.net, 7/3/00:

Resolution would end tribal sovereignty
If Indians don't like it, send in troops, GOP delegate says

Julie Titone -- Staff writer

The Washington State Republican Party has passed a resolution calling for the abolition of tribal governments.

"We do not recognize them as sovereign nations, as governments," said John Fleming, the Skagit County delegate who was a main author of the resolution. It calls on the federal government to "immediately take whatever steps necessary to terminate all such non-republican forms of government on Indian reservations."

"We think it can be done peacefully," Fleming said. But if tribes were to fight the effort, "then the U.S. Army and the Air Force and the Marines and the National Guard are going to have to battle back."

The action comes at a time of growing discontent over reservation rules that affect non-Indians, ranging from hunting privileges to liquor sales. The backlash against tribal governments has become so strong that human-rights activists have labeled it "racist."

Tribal leaders call the GOP resolution outrageous and an affront to their rights under treaties signed by Congress.

"It's absolutely the reverse of what Republican principles stand for -- to protect all rights and to uphold the integrity and honor of this nation and all of the commitments it makes," said Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe.

Allen is vice president of the National Congress of American Indians. A Republican, he was surprised to hear about the resolution approved June 17 during the Republican state convention in Spokane.

"The Republican Party nationally has been making some effort to improve its image with regards to its relationship with the Indian nations," Allen said. "This is polarizing. It's the opposite of what they should be doing."

Beth Jensen, chairwoman of the GOP platform committee, said she had no idea how the writers of the resolution intend for termination to be carried out.

Her committee sent seven resolutions to the 1,300 delegates with a "do pass" recommendation. Among other resolutions were ones calling on the federal government to preserve hydropower dams and to drop its lawsuit against Microsoft Corp.

Although some resolutions were heavily debated, the one dealing with tribal governments was barely discussed, Jensen said.

"I was so unfamiliar with the issue that I wasn't totally focused on what the debate was. It seems like what was being said was, there were acts by the tribal governments that weren't the way we do government in America," she said. "A couple of people gave examples to people who didn't have a clue, and it passed."

The committee considered 29 resolutions in two hours' time, she said. "I wish we had the luxury, the time to discuss them."

Fleming lives within the Swinomish Reservation. He refers to tribal governments as "non-republican" because non-Indian reservation residents can't vote in tribal elections. That makes them illegal under the U.S. and state constitutions, he contends.

In 1994, Fleming began trying to persuade the Republican Party in Skagit County to pass a resolution. This year he succeeded.

"Out of 250 delegates, only two people said no. They were tribal members or the mother of tribal members," he said.

The Skagit delegates to the state convention championed the cause in Spokane. Now, Fleming wants Washington's delegates to work the idea into the national GOP platform.

Supporters of the cause hope that a class action eventually will find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court and that the court then would rule tribal governments illegal.

"The key to this is making people aware," Fleming said.

Fleming has written many essays attacking tribal sovereignty. He is active in regional and national organizations that oppose treaty rights. Asked if he is anti-Indian, he replied: "Oh my God, no."

The Northwest Coalition for Human Dignity has concluded that efforts to abolish tribal government are racist. Coalition researcher Robert Crawford called the GOP resolution "disturbing."

"I wouldn't say it's a majority view. It's in line with the hard core of anti-Indian folks within the party such as (Sen.) Slade Gorton and (Rep.) Jack Metcalf," he said.

Termination was the focus of the government's Indian policy in the mid-20th century, he noted.

"In the 1950s and '60s we rampantly violated the rights of tribes," Crawford said. "We can do better than this."


Here is the resolution passed at the Washington state Republican Party convention June 17:

Whereas Article IV, Section 4, of the U.S. Constitution guarantees every state a republican form of government, and this guarantee to each state is a warrantee to protect the citizens of that state; and

Whereas the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs is currently aiding and abetting Indian tribes to regulate and collect taxes, injure property rights, withhold due process and grant unequal protection under the laws to some citizens, for the benefit and advantage of other citizens; and

Whereas these same Indian tribes, with the support and advice of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, organize and operate tribal governments that are not republican in form, and in fact prohibit certain citizens from voting for the representatives who enact such measures and laws and injure the citizens being denied representation;

Therefore be it resolved that the executive and legislative branches of the federal government immediately take whatever steps necessary to terminate all such non-republican forms of government on Indian reservations, and compensate those citizens who have wrongly suffered loss due to denial of their constitutionally guaranteed rights to be governed by a republican form of government.


A Native responds
A response also posted on Spokane.net July 3, I believe:

Subject: Your resolution to abolish tribal governments

John Flemming,
Delegate Skagit County

To Delegate John Fleming,

Regards the resolution you authored calling on the american government to abolish tribal governments, by whatever steps necessary to terminate all such non-republican forms of government on indian reservations.

A news story has you stating ..."then the US Army and the Air Force and the Marines and the National Guard are going to have to battle back."

What you have said and what you intend to do is going to be reported around the world. You clearly have plans for the native people of Washington state and those plans are for the destruction of even more human beings.

You are a Republican party delegate and so you speak for that party in this matter. It appears plain to me and to many others who have read the news story concerning this concept that you would try to unleash american military force upon the citizens of Washington state.

John Fleming, you underestimate the american indian. You can not threaten humans with extinction without having it exposed to the world.

Are you prepared to order in the military ? I bet you are. You willing to set americans against americans ? You clearly are.

Why is that ? How can a person holding such a position in the Republican party have such a racist mindset ? How did you come to have that position ?

This attempt by you to tear down the indian nations will just stir up a big mess for you. That is the certain result.

I will do everything in my power to assure your comments about using the american military against american indians is broadcast around the world.

James R. Burnes
Marina, California


The controversy continues
More from Spokane.net:

July 10, 2000

Indians hope outcry will stop GOP resolution
Panel urges action to fight proposal

Erica Curless -- Staff writer

Spokane _ Letters, e-mails and phone calls to elected officials expressing disgust for a recent Washington state Republican resolution to end tribal governments on reservations is the best way to combat the "anti-Indian" movement, Northwest Coalition for Human Dignity members said Sunday.

Without education about tribal sovereignty, people will continue to misunderstand the issue and support measures such as the Republican resolution to "take whatever action necessary to terminate tribal governments," coalition board members told about 45 members Sunday at Cavanaugh's Ridpath Hotel. The resolution's sponsor has even advocated using U.S. military force if tribes resist.

"It's been said man will destroy what he doesn't understand," said Roger Moses, a Spokane tribal member appalled by the GOP resolution.

Delegates to the state Republican convention passed the controversial resolution to end tribal sovereignty June 17 without much discussion. Since then, tribal governments and human rights groups have cried out against the proposal, calling it racist and anti-Indian.

Leah Henry-Slaney, a coalition board member who represents the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, said many people don't understand native sovereignty and that breeds misconceptions.

"It's a very complex issue and the history goes so far back that there is just a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation," said Henry-Slaney, a member of the Nez Perce Nation.

As established in treaties with the U.S. government, tribal sovereignty is the concept that Native American tribes are self-governing entities. Based on federal court decisions that date back to the 1800s, states cannot interfere with tribal rights, although Congress can override an Indian nation's authority.

Members attending Sunday's board meeting agreed public education and outcry is needed, especially because the resolution's sponsor, John Fleming, Skagit County delegate to the recent state Republican convention, wants it introduced at the GOP's national convention later this month in Chicago.

Coalition members said it's doubtful the resolution will reach the national convention.

"It's a bad message to not only Native American people, but all people who stand for democracy," Henry-Slaney said.

Deb Louie, a coalition board member and Colville tribal councilman, is outraged by the resolution, yet said it's a good eye-opener for people. He hopes it will spark action to stop racist efforts against all minorities, not just Indians.

If the resolution is introduced at the national GOP convention, Louie said the United States will wake up and learn minorities control the vote.

"It would be the best thing that ever happened if they (Republicans) follow through," Louie said.

Resolution sponsor Fleming has insisted he's not anti-Indian and other Republicans supporting the resolution say it is a way to end problems on Washington's reservations.

Jim McCurdy, a Gonzaga University law professor specializing in Indian law, told coalition members that federal Indian law, U.S. law and international law all recognize tribal sovereignty. He added that this type of "genocide" is not isolated to Washington or the Northwest, but is found nationwide.

"It has to do with resources and the control of resources," McCurdy said about movements to end tribal governments.

George Critchlow, a fellow Gonzaga law professor, said it's dangerous to draw partisan lines around this issue and that the problem transcends Republican politics.

"Bigotry and ignorance certainly is not limited to partisan Republicans in this country," Critchlow said.

The coalition is planning another informational meeting on Aug. 6 at Eastern Washington University's Riverpoint auditorium.

Rob's comment
Do these ignorant Republicans recognize the Constitution? How about a couple hundred years of Supreme Court rulings?

Can we do anything to abolish Washington's Republican Party? I don't recognize it—as a form of intelligent life.

Related links
The facts about tribal sovereignty

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