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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Anti-Indian sovereignty movement and its politicians
Posted: February 22, 2002 -- 10:29AM EST

Indian nations are forming a serious united front against the growing forces focused on destroying the bases of Indian sovereignty under United States law.

At its 58th Annual Session the National Congress of American Indians, with its membership of more than 250 tribal governments from every region of Indian country, adopted a resolution condemning the actions of anti-Indian organizations and hate groups. Likewise, at its January 2002 Impact Week in Washington, D.C., the 24 Indian nation members of the United South and Eastern Tribes passed a resolution identifying and condemning groups intent on eliminating American Indian governments, societies and cultures. Both of these respected American Indian advocacy organizations appropriately called attention to anti-Indian groups including but not limited to Citizens for Equal Rights Alliance, United Property Owners, and Upstate Citizens for Equality.

The backlash movement against the honorable foundation of tribal government sovereignty by regional, and increasingly, nationally networked anti-Indian organizations represents a serious political challenge that Indian nations must confront. It is of utmost importance that the nations and all Indian leadership everywhere understand that no matter how much local clout you might have, all Indian nations are, of necessity, in it together on such critical termination movements that would deny American Indian freedoms and liberties in their aboriginal lands.

The current anti-Indian movement has several bases in the non-Indian population, and even enjoys allies among a very few Indians who have turned on their own governments, for whatever reasons.

In New York State, at least one congressional primary race is now defined by the anti-Indian sovereignty platform and the activist opposition to Indian nations and jurisdictions of a declared candidate. The case is worth noting. The candidate is Rodger Potocki, a Republican businessman from New Hartford, who is an active member in an anti-Indian organization identified by NCAI and USET, namely the Upstate Citizens for Equality. Potocki stated the "repeal of Indian sovereignty" as a central campaign theme. He is running for the Republican nomination to Congress from an upstate New York District. And even though he is out of step with New York's Republican leader, Governor George Pataki, who has formally recognized Indian sovereignty, Potocki's candidacy represents the dark, old and tired legacy of U.S. and Indian relations.

The bugaboo is one that goes back to the 1920s, with attacks on the structure of tribes as separatist, discriminatory, even racist. Potocki was quoted in the (Syracuse) Post Standard as saying: "We should not allow nations of different people and different colors and different religions. It's the Balkanization of America." In Potocki's case the anti-Indian anger is directed at the success of the Oneida and Cayuga Nations of New York, which have won their land claims and are now in a position to buy back their former territories and establish viable economic futures.

As in the Oneida example, the aggressive reacquisition of Indian lands, putting them into trust with their tax status under Indian nation jurisdiction, has some would-be "patriots" fuming. Never mind that churches, non-profit institutions and other governmental jurisdictions remove far more land from county and town taxation than its local Indian nation, and give back much less than Oneida Nation enterprises that employ over 3,000 tax-paying local people. (The Oneida Nation is owner of this newspaper's parent corporation.) Potocki is hell-bent on the proposition that by destroying Indian nations' jurisdictions and legal standing, some great American problem will be solved.

Potocki, UCE and the national network that is organizing and politically guiding the anti-Indian movement to state houses and the U.S. Congress must be watched carefully. If left unanswered, one of these days, as a movement, it could potentially emerge onto the American media scene via some manufactured event. If a cluster of five or eight anti-Indian tribal jurisdiction politicians form in any house of government, particularly Congress, it gains strength. It gains the potential to create serious problems.

Tribal leaders should make no mistake about it. The stated aim of this national movement is to destroy the powers and authorities of Indian tribal government within U.S. law. Help identify it in your own backyard. Combat it in any appropriate way. In Central New York, Potocki proudly announced his run for Congress on Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Lincoln fought to preserve the union, he said. Indian nation sovereignties are supposedly against Lincoln's principle of a united country, Potocki argues. Indian nations need to be ready to repel these absurd arguments, fight back the faulty rationales used by anti-Indian forces that patriotism and Americanism are on their side, when in fact they are the ones denying well-established American historical, political and cultural legacies, and dishonoring the country's diplomatic government to government heritage. Potocki needs to be reminded, for instance, that Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida and other Iroquois ancestors fought in all of America's wars, striving to secure freedom, liberty and sovereignty for nations the world over. Indian nations deserve no less at home.

The long-standing legal reality of Indian nations' existence outside and within the American federalist and state frameworks, the long-standing treaty and case law that define the history of United States and Indian relations are reduced to the "evil" of "Balkanization" in the anti-Indian arguments. As if tribal nations did not own their own reality on this American earth, one that extends many hundreds of years further, as if relations between tribal, municipal, state and federal jurisdictions were not possible and, in fact, part of the American legal fabric.

Rob's comment
The stereotype here is that sovereignty is a "policy" a politician can oppose. It isn't. It's a foundation of the country, part of the Constitution, a historical fact. Opposing a fact doesn't change the nature of that fact.

Since the Founding Fathers signed treaties with Indians and enshrined their sovereignty in the Constitution, what exactly are right-wingers suggesting? That Washington et al. didn't know what they were doing? That they balkanized the United States?

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