"The Native American Community Responds,"by Ron Allen, Marge Anderson & Ray Halbritter January/February 1999 issue of Poverty & Race
Allen: I believe that it requires the U.S. to unequivocally recognize the tribal governments’ authority as governments and their role to advance the welfare of the Indian Community and the people. So that the tribes have the capacity to advance their economic development ventures, and that would include the recognition that they are governments that are not taxable, that they have the right to engage in any other activity that any other government does to provide the services needed by the Indian Community, to assist people in their achievement of professional and vocational aspirations.
Anderson: There are important differences between the struggles of American Indians and the struggles of other racial groups in this country. The obvious one is that we did not immigrate here. We were not forced to relocate here as slaves. We are the first Americans.
But in some respects, our story is similar to the stories of other racial groups. While I don’t pretend to be an expert on African Americans or Asian Americans or Hispanic Americans, I do know that these people — like my People — have struggled for years to keep from being swallowed up by the dominant culture. American Indians have had to fight off deliberate attacks against our culture, as well as sincere but misguided attempts to help us assimilate. I’m sure these are struggles that sound familiar to other racial groups.
Halbritter: Minority groups in America share a struggle with racism in one form or another. The fundamental difference between sovereignty and equal protection under the law makes our struggle to maintain our identity unlike that of any other ethnic group. Our governments, laws and cultures existed long before the United States and its laws came into being. Our sovereign rights are recognized in repeated treaties with the federal government. Yet that same federal government continually passes laws that infringe on those sovereign rights. And state and local governments often enact legislation and pursue court actions that completely disregard Indian sovereignty. Only the American Indian in this country is engaged in this never-ending struggle to protect our pre-existing inherent sovereign rights.
Ron Allen is President of the National Congress of American Indians and Chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in Sequim, WA.
Marge Anderson is Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Jibwe Indians in Onamia, MN
Ray Halbritter is Oneida Nation representative and CEO of Oneida Nations Enterprises, Oneida, NY.
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