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Historically racism has characterized and justified unscrupulous behavior toward Native Americans. This attitude has kept us in poverty and ill health since the inception of the reservation system.
The long historical racist mentality, accentuated through the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, has allowed countless political types and racist individuals like Jack Abramoff to defraud Native tribes of billions of dollars.
This theft is consistent with congressional double-dealings that manipulate away profit, land, natural resources and enterprising attempts by Native American tribes to make their nations economically and socially independent.
When tribal people stand up in self defense, as they did in the 1970s, when thousands marched across North America on the Trail of Broken Treaties to Washington, D.C., to protest tribal corruption sanctioned by federal policies and congressional acts, we were met with clubs and violence.
Before federal treaties removed tribes from their traditional lands, they lived a rich and abundant life for thousands of years. Since then, congressional acts have kept tribes locked in poverty and ill health to the present day.
The federal government’s programs enacted by Congress have whittled away millions of areas of reservation land for profit, and continue an ongoing policy that sanctions thefts of Indian land and natural resources. The gaming industry represents a continuation of congressional manipulations that erode tribal sovereignty and continue to plague the quality of life for Native people.
We have fought the land rush, gold rush and oil rush. Now comes the gaming rush, which has created more corruption in our tribal governments and animosity among Native Americans. Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, and it has only brought money-mongering politicians scurrying in from Washington, D.C., sniffing out casino profits.
Governmental reports alleging that gaming revenue has been used to “reduce poverty and unemployment rates, build schools and hospitals, paved road and construct sewer systems, preserve and revitalize cultural traditions and build responsive and responsible government institutions such as tribal courts” are a smokescreen for the United States to escape its treaty obligations.
If these treaties had been honored decades ago, the Native American communities would have enjoyed the same opportunities and the same standard of living as mainstream America.
The United States is the wealthiest country in the world, with a higher poverty rate than any other progressive nation. Native Americans rank the poorest in health and economy due to federal “Indian policies.”
The government has attempted to mask these policies as good and wholesome, but in reality, they are bent towards genocide, ethnocide and land and resource theft in the name of divine “manifest destiny” to spread civilization by territorial expansion and subjugation of American Indians.
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THE AMERICAN Indian Movement fought against tribal corruption in the 1970s, which resulted in us being labeled “terrorist” and wholesale federal attacks on us by their political police force, the FBI, which used its counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO) to destroy our legitimate protest movement.
The Church Committee declared that these methods were in violation of the constitutional protections. Despite the Church Committee’s findings, the federal government declared war on the American Indian Movement, resulting in over 300 assaults and homicides by a corrupt tribal government that was armed and protected by the FBI, an agency of the Department of Justice.
The USA PATRIOT Act is today using similar methods against us. The federal government justifies such acts through scare tactics that label threats under the name “terrorist.” Leonard Peltier, a victim of the COINTELPRO program, has served 30 years in prison to date, and there seems to be no end in sight to his continued incarceration.
Congressional acts are passed to regulate the lives of Indian people into oblivion. One of the most outrageous congressional acts passed was about freedom of religion. Why did we need a special act protecting our religious rights when the U.S. Constitution alleges to protect everyone’s religious freedom and rights?
Just as the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) controls the lives of tribal people through corruption, so too does the casino business create and maintain corrupt tribal leadership. Tribal leadership is now using what remains of our sovereignty as a weapon against their own people.
Many American Indians now view the Gaming Act as just another congressional act of genocide, similar to congressional acts like the Relocation and Termination Act. These were attempts to remove Indians from their remaining lands and make them disappear into the melting pot of North America.
Many California tribes, in order to get a bigger share of the profits, have been thinning out their population by arbitrarily kicking hundreds of members from tribal roles and/or denying them enrollment. The Enterprise Rancheria kicked out 75 members, while still other tribes corrupted by the money are kicking out hundreds.
The real kicker is that when these tribal members attempt to appeal these outrageous acts of genocide by their own Nations through the U.S. Department of Justice, tribal sovereignty is recognized. It is clear that institutions of the federal government continue to manipulate tribal sovereignty to the disparagement of Indian people.
Tribes began as sovereign powers, which are recognized by treaties between them and the United States of America. Congress has historically limited tribal sovereignty by passage of such congressional acts as the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which are cloaked as progressive economic opportunities for tribal nations, while they are, in fact, designed to take from the tribes’ control of their lives, by expressly limiting tribal sovereignty.
ROBERT ROBIDEAU is co-director of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee. Along with Leonard, his cousin, He was an activist in the American Indian Movement, an organization formed in the 1970s to demand civil rights and defend Native Americans from government violence. He was accused along with Leonard of killing two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in 1975. Robert was acquitted; in a separate trial, Leonard was convicted and sentenced to prison, where he remains unjustly to this day.