The president of the National Congress of American Indians called on the United States federal government to respect tribal governments right to self-governance.
January 19, 2016
(ANTIMEDIA) Washington D.C. — On Thursday, January 14, Brian Cladoosby, President of the National Congress of American Indians and chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, delivered the 2016 State of the Indian Nations address. Cladoosby spoke at the Newseum in Washington D.C. and was welcomed by members of Congress and the Obama administration.
The central message of the State of the Indian Nations was that the United States federal government ought to honor its treaties and promises to American Indian tribes and nations across the country. This is not a new call from the native community but rather a continuation of a cry for justice that modern America first became aware of with the rise of the radical Red Power movement during the 1960’s and 70’s.
“At every level of government, more and more leaders are seeing that the path to a brighter future for America runs through Indian Country,” said Brian Cladoosby said. “Imagine how much further we will go, as the next class of American legislators and policymakers further strengthen tribal self-determination.”
Cladoosby commended the Obama administration for the passage of the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act of 2014, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 2010, and the Tribal Law & Order Act of 2010, as well as the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013. He also called on the removal of outdated laws and regulations.
“We need to replace antiquated laws and regulations with policies that trust and empower tribes to govern,” he said. “We need a relationship based not on paternalism and control, but on deference and support; a partnership where tribes continue to meet their own challenges and chart their own path forward.”
During the speech Cladoosby invited presidential candidates to visit native communities on reservations. “While Indian Country is still recovering from generations of damaging policies, more than four decades of tribal self-determination have launched our resurgence. Today, tribal nations are innovating and leading the way.”
Cladoosby also quoted a letter from Thomas Jefferson to President George Washington: “Indians [have] full, undivided and independent sovereignty as long as they choose to keep it, and this might be forever.”
He called for a partnership between native communities and the federal government, specifically in the areas of community security; economic equality; education, health and wellness; and climate change.
While Cladoosby calls for a partnership between tribal nations and the U.S. government we should not assume that any future agreements between the two parties would be honored any more than treaties of the past have been. We should also not assume that Cladoosby and the National Congress of American Indians speak for all natives and nations, especially considering that their membership only applies to individuals or tribes who are “recognized as a tribe or other identifiable group of American Indians by the Department of the Interior, Court of Claims, the Indian Claims Commission or a State.” So for the many nations not recognized by the colonizers known as the U.S. government — their voices are excluded.
The central message of sovereignty for native communities across the United States is of utmost importance. However, we should not stop at American Indians. All human beings presently living on the landmass known as the United States should recognize their inherent right to live as free, beautiful, empowered beings. The federal government most definitely does not grant us our freedom but it is absolutely working to limit the freedom of all people on this land.
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