We are writing to urge you to support Senate Bill S-1691. This important bill will help equalize access to justice and waive Indian sovereign immunity to the same extent waived by the United States government itself.
This is an excellent first step toward granting the same access to constitutional courts to persons living on Indian reservations that all other Americans, including Native Americans, living off reservations enjoy. Reservation inhabitants in the United States number almost 800,000 people. Over three-quarters of a million American citizens are being denied one of our basic rights under the Bill of Rights, namely equal access to constitutional courts.
Tribal sovereign immunity denies reservation residents access to constitutional courts in most situations. This allows tribal governments tyrannical authority over members, which is a potent form of discrimination against Native Americans. Senator Gorton’s proposal allows tribal governments to have the same governmental immunity from suits that the United States has. To argue that this tribal accountability would destroy tribes because it waives tribal sovereign immunity is unfounded, when general governmental immunity has not destroyed America’s small towns and counties.
CERA is the only organization composed of Indians and non-Indians dedicated to promoting equal rights and dignity in reservation areas. CERA believes in Equal protection of the laws for all citizens. Equal protection requires equal access to courts convened under the Constitution of the United States.
We submit the enclosed Fact Sheet for your information to encourage passage of Senate Bill S-1691.
Howard B. Hanson