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Stereotype of the Month Entry
(10/21/07)


Lait cartoon Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Opinion Editorials
Tribe can improve campaign reporting, but cheap shots don't help

published October 21, 2007 12:15 am

We find common ground with congressional candidate Carl Mumpower on only one point when it comes to the Eastern Band of Cherokee. There's no reason to question their leaders' claim that the tribe's failure to report campaign contributions made to the Democratic and Republican parties was an oversight, not an intentional deception.

Ignorance of the law, however, is not an acceptable excuse.

The tribe has a responsibility to fully comply with campaign reporting laws, a responsibility made all the more significant because the state elections board in 2002 ruled that it, unlike other government bodies, could contribute to campaigns.

Tribal leaders say they believed the tribe didn't have to report contributions to political parties or contributions it made to lawmakers who never cashed the checks, which were voided.

"I think it was unclear to the previous administration and unclear when we came in" in 2003, said Paxton Myers, chief of staff to Principal Chief Michell Hicks.

At issue are $58,000 in contributions to political parties and $4,000 in canceled checks. That represents about one-third of the $174,000 in political contributions made by the tribe since 2005.

We support the tribe's right to make campaign contributions, but we agree with elections board Executive Director Gary Bartlett, who said, "Everybody needs to know where (campaign) money is coming from and how it's being spent. It tells the story behind that party, behind that candidate or behind that issue."

This is one of those rare occasions when we don't agree with election-reform advocate Bob Hall, who said the tribe should have to solicit donations from its members as political committees do, "rather than just open up their treasury and put a bunch of money into political wheeling and dealing."

Inner-tribal issue

As a sovereign nation, the Eastern Band has the right to set the rules on how tribal money is spent. If the Cherokee people object to their leaders using tribal money to make campaign contributions, they have the opportunity to make that an issue and demand change.

Which brings us back to Mumpower, an Asheville city councilman and a candidate for the Republican nomination for the 11th District congressional seat held by Rep. Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville.

Following the revelation of the Eastern Band's failure to report some campaign contributions, Mumpower issued a press release criticizing the status of American Indian tribes as sovereign nations.

"We have, realistically, a subsidized country within a country, and it's time to help these folks become a part of America as a whole instead of an isolated special interest."

Only a person grossly ignorant of American history and law as it relates to native peoples could have made such an uninformed and insulting statement about the original inhabitants of this land.

The sovereignty of Native Americans is rooted in U.S. Code, Title 25, Chapter 14, Subchapter II, Part D, 458aa, which says:

"The Congress finds and declares that:

There is a government-to-government relationship between the United States and each Indian tribe.

The United States has a trust responsibility to each tribal government that includes the protection of the sovereignty of each tribal government.

Congress, through statutes, treaties, and the exercise of administrative authorities, has recognized the self-determination, self-reliance, and inherent sovereignty of Indian tribes.

Indian tribes possess the inherent authority to establish their own form of government, including tribal justice systems."

The Supreme Court has also supported the concept of tribal sovereignty. It said in Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, "As separate sovereigns pre-existing the Constitution, tribes have historically been regarded as unconstrained by those constitutional provisions framed as limitations on federal and state authority. ..."

Given the abysmal treatment of Native Americans suffered at the hands of the U.S. government, the Cherokee Trail of Tears being one of the most egregious and inhumane examples, it is hard to imagine a candidate for the U.S. Congress with the insensitivity to issue a press release titled "Cherokee Tribal Status Has Become a Corrupted Special Interest."

The Cherokee are a sovereign people who, through their hard work and enterprise, have brought a new prosperity to the western region of North Carolina. Western North Carolina's economy has and will continue to benefit from their efforts to garner support for gaming on tribal lands.

It's critical for the Eastern Band to become fully informed about and to strictly comply with campaign reporting rules. But their oversight is no justification for a vicious and unwarranted attack on their sovereignty.

*****

Eastern Band of Cherokee is and will remain a sovereign nation

By Michell Hicks
October 22, 2007 12:15 am

As the Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, I felt compelled to respond to the recent disturbing press release issued by Asheville Councilman Carl Mumpower belittling our Nation as a special-interest group.

Mumpower would not be the first American politician advocating for the destruction of our tribe and for the dissolution of our rights to exist as a distinct Nation.

Many advocate for our demise out of ignorance about our historic government-to-government relationship with the United States.

Look at history

First and foremost our Nation existed in this land long before Europeans and then Euro-Americans sought to establish themselves as sovereigns.

Our people peacefully sought diplomatic relations with the governments of England and France long before there was an American government, and so it was that the new United States recognized our right to continue to exist as a distinct Nation.

This sovereign right was established nearly 200 years ago, not just with the rise of our ability to legally operate a gaming enterprise.

We will fight until the bitter end to maintain and defend our sovereignty, no matter what the circumstance.

Field still not level

I do, however, agree with Mumpower that the current playing field is uneven.

Thank goodness someone finally understands that.

We have not been on a level playing field for the 200 years of our relationship with the United States.

Our people have historically been among the most destitute in the country, and we have worked tirelessly to provide our people with opportunities that many other Americans take for granted.

Our Tribe continues to avail ourselves of federal grant money, which is available to many communities. It is our right as citizens to do so.

What is most disturbing about Mumpower's view is that he so readily dismisses the rights of those constituents he hopes to represent.

Is he so dismissive of our ability to operate a business within the legal limits of the law that he would accuse our people of being corrupt?

Jealous of success?

If our business is so "counterproductive to the interests of Western North Carolina," why are we one of the largest employers west of Asheville?

Why are we the most visited destination in North Carolina?

Is it that Mumpower has no idea of the huge unemployment rates prior to the opening of Harrah's Cherokee Casino and Hotel, or is it that he doesn't care about the constituents in the counties that provide the majority of our work force?

I think Mumpower would better serve this district if he actually knew who he wants to represent west of Buncombe County.

Michell Hicks is Principal Chief, Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.

*****

Mumpower's insults of tribe will cost him

by Joseph Martin
published November 1, 2007 12:15 am

Carl Mumpower can be congratulated for one thing, and it's something Principal Chief Michell Hicks has yet to do. He created unity among the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians' community, at least as far as the race for Congress is concerned. After a highly controversial and contentious tribal election, that's no easy feat.

Mumpower basically insulted the tribe's members and belittled the sacrifices made by their ancestors to further his political motives. He called the tribe a "corrupted special interest." He even suggested "obtaining a fake ID, crossing the Qualla Boundary and seeing if (he) can join the race to use versus uplift America." His anti-sovereignty rhetoric was reminiscent of anything seen from notorious "Indian fighters" former Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) and former Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.).

He's accused the tribe of using "us" versus "them" tactics, yet his press release does just that, playing upon the racially-inspired resentments among a small and unworthy segment of his potential constituency. His comment about obtaining a fake ID is particularly disturbing coming from a vocal opponent of illegal immigration.

The fact is members of the tribe have been among the most patriotic. They've voted. They've served in wartime. Some of them, most notably Charles George in Korea, gave their lives in service to keep this country free. They've been active participants of furthering and defending democracy since they've been U.S. citizens and even before that.

The members of the Eastern Band are Americans. They pay federal taxes. Those who reside and/or work off the Boundary pay state taxes. Everyone who shops off tribal land, which is a significant number since the Qualla Boundary offers limited retail options, pays sales taxes, much of it in Mumpower's hometown.

While Mumpower raises a valid concern about campaign donations and corruption from tribes, it's an issue that is and should be best addressed tribally. To hit the whole for the actions of a few is unfair. The tribe can take care of its own problems.

Mumpower should get to know the tribe rather than ostracize it. It has become a voting bloc in this region, and that bloc cast its ballots for Rep. Heath Shuler in 2006, the man he seeks to unseat.

Mumpower doesn't have to like the tribe's leadership or how it raises revenue, but he needs the tribe's members. They can and do vote.

Joe Martin has been editor of the Cherokee One Feather since 1996. He won third place for Individual Best Editorial Writing at the 2004 Native Media Awards from the Native American Journalists Association at the 2004 UNITY Journalists of Color convention in Washington. He lives on tribal trust lands in Cherokee County.

Related links
Indian rights = special rights
The facts about tribal sovereignty


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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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