Calls For New Constitutional Amendment To Give Reservation Citizens Full Civil Rights

PRNewswire – Citizens Equal Rights Alliance
May 20, 2002

HOPKINS, MN — CERA representatives from throughout the United States will meet in Washington D.C. next week to present Bush Administration officials and members of Congress with a resolution calling for a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The group feels this may be the only way to assure Indian reservation residents complete constitutional protections, especially those of the fifth and fourteenth amendments, which insure due process and equal treatment under the law.

Darrel Smith, a director of the Foundation, stated that, “America’s most basic values, such as legal equality, popular sovereignty, and our constitutional system of an enumerated, limited, constitutional, and federal government have worked very well throughout our history for the vast majority of American citizens. These values and this system have allowed a very diverse people to experience an unprecedented level of freedom, tranquility and prosperity. It is the violation of these same principles that has led to most of the problems associated with federal Indian policy.

“The addition of racially-exclusive tribal governments outside of the federal constitutional framework violates the guarantees of a federal and republican form of government. Most importantly, it violates the equal protection of the law guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The excessive authority of tribal governments can only be exercised at the expense of state and local jurisdictions, and the constitutional rights of individual citizens.”

J. Tonny Bowman, also a director of the Foundation and an enrolled member of the Navaho reservation, is the author of the 28th Amendment Resolution. In his words, “It took until June 2, 1924, for America to declare all Indians born in the United States ‘naturalized’ citizens of the United States, and citizens of the states they live in, even though they may live on a reservation. But even with citizenship, Indians are denied many of the Constitutional protections of other citizens because tribal governments do not embody ‘separation of powers’ inherent in most state and local governments. Tribal leaders can be president, law enforcement, judge and jury all in one. Not to mention the ability to deny rights of speech, assembly and property. That is why I firmly believe the best — and maybe last — hope for conferring full, constitutional, and irrevocable citizenship rights for Indians is the Constitutional amendment that CERA is bringing to Washington D.C. this next week.”

AMENDMENT XXVIII

Section l.

All Natives, Indians or aboriginals of the Western Hemisphere, born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the states, Indian reservations, trust land and territories where they reside. No state, tribal government or territorial government shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

CERA has been researching federal Indian policy for fifteen years. Its membership includes Indian and non-Indian citizens living both on and off reservation areas and ceded lands.