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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

From the Native Times, 7/28/03:

Homeland Security Act mischaracterizes Indian governments
Proposed legislation would change language

Sam Lewin 7/28/2003

Its something most Americans don't like to think about, but a creative terrorist could wreak havoc by targeting locations on Indian reservations. Some reservations are in proximity to international borders, while others have energy generating plants, oil and gas pipelines, railways and highways, dams and water reservoirs.

This week the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is looking at legislation that would clarify the status of tribal governments under the 2002 Homeland Security Act. The act did not specify that tribal governments are sovereign entities, instead classifying them as local governments under state jurisdiction. Just semantics? Not so, say officials with the National Congress of American Indians.

"They would have to go through the state to get [anti-terrorism] funding," said NCAI spokesman Jason McCarty. That would be a problem, McCarty said, because state officials are usually tighter with purse strings then the feds are. He said he doesn't know why the original language in the Homeland Security Act was worded that way, theorizing it was possibly an oversight.

Nonetheless, McCarty says the threat is real and points to Oklahoma's Osage Tribe as one of several examples of a potential national security risk.

"The Osages have the national gas pipeline going through their land that they would need a way to defend," McCarty said. " Tribes in Arizona that border Mexico have a large amount of people going through the border. Tribes with large casinos need some kind of emergency plan if, God forbid, someone tied to attack them."

Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye has proposed clarifying tribal status as sovereign nations. His legislation will be heard before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Wednesday. W. Ron Allen, Chairman of the Washington State-based Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe will testify during the hearing. So will the president of the NCAI, Tex Hall.

"The exclusion of tribal governments in implementation of a national homeland security strategy places both Indian and non-Indian populations at risk," Hall said.

Related links
The facts about tribal sovereignty

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