The Trumplicans of the US government announced a week or so ago that it would force American Indians to comply with their policy that Indians must comply with Medicaid work requirements to receive health support. This stance both violates treaties and executive orders guaranteeing health to Americans. The policy constitutes a throwback policy of “termination” when the United States government set a policy of getting “out of the Indian Business” in the late 1940s and through the 1950s and 60s.
Then after the resignation of head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs head came following on the “Medicare for no one” policy, the Trumplicans nominated an oil and gas lobbyist to replace the BIA head. The nominee, Tara Sweeney, pushed for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drill the region for oil. She is an attorney who worked in Washington D.C. for the law firm Van Ness Feldman, and then worked for the Alaskan oil and coal organization Arctic Slope Regional Corporation.
These two acts alone (not to mention numerous regulatory backslides that directly affect the lives and property of American Indians in negative ways) constitute acts of “political violence” against American Indians enacting the policies advocated by the Anti-Indian Movement from around the United States intent on confiscating tribal lands and resources for private non-Indian wealth.
What is the response of Indian Country’s political leadership a year an a half after the Trumplicans began their raids? That is a good question! There is nary a peep.
I am not surprised that NCAi will want to seek a “consultation” with “Trumps Raiders” since that has become its “go to” in an effort to engage the government. The problem is consultations have had very little political value and in the case of the Trumplicans will have no meaning at all. Organizing a tribal strategy is going to have to involve much more than invoking the treaties, government-to-government relations and getting “Congress to act.”
I am afraid that tribes like the rest of the population in the United States (and apparently in quite a few other countries that have been Trumplified) have not been paying close attention to the radical nature of the Trumplican “steal all” policy. Their main focus is kleptocracy and tribes are an important target from which to steal to enrich a few oligarchs. the main strategy has to be: Do not trust the US government and to depend on the United States to come to their aid. The Tribes must be aggressive and have two or three levels of defense. Remember, tribes can easily be divided with a few shekels handed out from the “masters.”
The greatest weakness of the current US government must be identified and that means in the White House and in the various federal agencies. That is “exposure” of the actual motives behind the actions to “get out of the Indian Business” and the individual personalities advancing the bureaucratic actions. Understanding those weaknesses is critical to the strategy. We need to recognize that the normal “we have treaties” approach and “court decisions” will not work. The tribes have let it stand too long to allow many agencies and the UN too to lump them into “minority class” status.
Watch for internal divisions! Know that even though the US has elections coming up, they will not solve the “Indian Problem” or as the 1976 Borgstrom/Mitchel Memorandum (click here) politely phrased it, “a focal point for the conduct of Federal Indian Programs.” This memorandum it wants to incrementally reduce flows of treaty funds to Indian government as they engage “in the management of Federal resources” and to get “Indians to leave the reservations.” This two-part policy recommendation does not differ from the objectives of getting Indians off health, education, and economic in the 1950s and now in 2018. The assumption of the US government policy makers now and then is that these needs are too great for American Indian governments to divert substantial resources from services to other objectives other self-government objectives. The Trumplicans and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) take the view that “Issues of sovereignty and entitlement are viewed as reference points insofar as they are perceived to be valid concepts by the participants, but they are not viewed as ‘basic’ or unconditional principles.“ In other words, “words are cheap”, but Indians can’t afford to shift their resources to true development of their communities since they are so dependent on the United States. The US government can put the economic squeeze incrementally on each tribe to force compliance with what ever policies the Trumplicans want to advance.
The OMB memorandum is more sophisticated than what the Trumplicans are now executing. They are simply saying there is no sovereignty, no treaties worth paying attention to and Indians should just join the citizens of the US. That is pretty stark and pretty much what they are saying.
Old US government policies never really die, they merely take on a new vigor when greedy government officials and businesses suddenly rediscover that American Indians retain major resources and land on which many individuals and companies want to capitalize.
Photo credit: Peg Hunter
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