By Eddie Gray Owl , Blackfeet tribal member, crusader for Equality and Sovereignty
Updated Nov 13, 2011
Reservation tribal governments across the United States (U.S.) constantly proclaim their sovereignty status as independent nations, which is inherently false based on the fact that reservations are trust property of the U.S. federal government. Which means, reservation land is property of the U.S. government and also, the reason why tribal governments do not pay a property tax to a state (U.S. federal property cannot be taxed by a state). Reservation Indians are also dependent upon the federal government for Housing, Food, Medical care, and General Assistance (with the exception of a few federal reservation tribes). These factors prove reservation tribes are not sovereign, but are truly dependents of the U.S. federal government.
More proof of this dependency is evident by means of the enormously high annual unemployment rate (70%), extraordinarily high mortality rates, and extreme poverty & social ills; it’s these facts that demonstrate the Blackfeet tribe would perish without the federal governments help – how else could such an impoverished group exist in these inhuman conditions. The Blackfeet federal reservation is a perfect example of the vast majority of federal reservations in the U.S. The source of this 75-year old (1934-2009) political, economic, and social disaster is the direct result of uneducated and incompetent non-leaders of tribal government.
The only solution to ending tribal government dependency on U.S. federal taxpayer dollars will be to enforce the 1953 congressionally adopted House Concurrent Resolution No. 108; in which congress declared that federal benefits and services to Indian tribes should be ended. A remedy Congress could utilize; impose a fixed time limit (5-years) on the open-ended federal entitlement money given to tribal governments. The 5-year time limit was utilized in 1996 by President Clinton (The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act ‘PRWORA’) to end single mothers’ open-ended welfare entitlements; similarly, an arrangement such as this must be compulsory for tribes to afford them the sovereignty they adamantly assert to maintain. How can a U.S. President and Congressional members force such tough love measures on millions of single mothers with dependents and not have the same iron resolve toward another group of government dependents?
It is the responsibility of the national and/or local governmental leaders to show the way through hard times and improve the economic and social conditions of one’s country and/or community, as the national leaders did during the great depression of the 1930’s. The worst year of the Great Depression in the U.S. was 1933; the national unemployment rate was a record high 24.9%. Where would the U.S. be today if the President had not ameliorated the economic conditions since 1933?
The reasons for these third world conditions are a direct result of the tribal leaders incompetence on business matters; they do not possess the credentials or qualifications to create employment or negotiate on any legitimate business matter. Tribal leaders are elected from an unskilled collection of nonprofessional tribal members. The educated tribal members leave the reservation from disgust and frustration after years of battling the deeply entrenched system of chaos, death, and tribal self-destruction; therefore, the electorate is presented with no educated and knowledgeable candidates to choose from on the ballot.
The 1934 Indian Reorganization Act (I.R.A.) granted Indian tribes the opportunity to create their own tribal constitution or adopt the I.R.A. format for self-governance. This self-governance was presumed to lead to economic independence and true sovereignty, but it has been a complete disaster. The Blackfeet tribe, chose the I.R.A. design and remain as politically weak and economically poor as they were in 1934. According to the 2008 U.S. census bureau estimates there are 2.5 million American Indians in the U.S., out of 305 million U.S. citizens. American Indians do not possess the voting numbers and/or wealth to cause concern to the incumbency status of a state or national politician; therefore, they will remain politically invisible, until one or both of these factors change.
Tribal self-governance will never come about as long as the U.S. government is going to prop-up these incompetent entities. Historically, the association between the federal government and Indian tribes has been recognized and exercised as a paternalistic relationship. U.S. federal tax dollars taken from hardworking taxpaying citizens and given to the tribes has crippled, not helped the reservation Indian. It is this guaranteed federal financial safety net that has allowed the tribal corporate business (tribal governments are incorporated) to fail. In this capitalist world, corporations either succeed or fail based on their managerial competence. The federal government must hold tribal corporate entities to the same standards.
In 1953, Public Law 83-280 was created; this law gives powers and responsibilities to the states over reservations that are assumed by the federal government. It is the 21st century; it is time to implement P.L. 83-280 nationally. Reservation Indians must be subject to the same U.S. Constitutional laws as all other U.S. citizens. Why should this particular ethnic group be singled-out and given preferential treatment above-all-other U.S. citizens? This is un-American!
Reservation property can be distributed to tribal members, which will allow for the dissolution of the tribal government; upon termination of tribal governments—the Bureau of Indian Affairs (the federal agency that oversees all tribal government business affairs) can be simultaneously eliminated, thus further saving U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars. State tribal citizens will fall under the jurisdiction of the city, county, and state governments. The appropriate governmental departments will adjudicate all civil and criminal matters. The city, county, and state governments will govern taxation and regulation of property owned by Indians, as they do with all U.S. citizens.
The taxpayers of Montana and other states that contain a federal Indian reservation must be informed of how their tax dollars are being stolen and wasted; they (the working U.S. citizens) are paying both a state tax and a federal tax; the Blackfeet tribal government receives ‘your’ federal tax dollars to exist. Indian tribal members living on and working on a federal reserve do not pay a state tax (they do pay federal taxes). Hence, it is the state and federal taxpayers; that finance the Blackfeet tribes culture of crime and corruption.
On the Blackfeet reservation, the yearly jobless rate is approximately 70%; this 70% do not pay any taxes. The 70% are also on state welfare and the majority of this high percentage willingly chooses NOT to work. The Montana State Government is taking a multiple hit–not collecting taxes on: personal income, property, Indian owned businesses and paying-out state welfare money. The Blackfeet tribe burdens the taxpaying citizens of the United States for food, medical care, housing, and social services; the federal government has given American Indian tribes billions of dollars—how much longer and how many more billions of your tax dollars will you allow the U.S. congress to give away?
This federal tax drain must be eliminated; initially, there will be an outcry from reservation Indian tribes, they will decry that the U.S. Congress is bound to honor its treaty obligations. My response to them – Indian tribes must realize that treaties are a formal agreement (not a law) between two or more parties and that the treaty depends on the good faith of the parties involved. History illustrates a regime must have the power to enforce a treaty. Indians do not possess the political power to enforce a treaty as evidenced by their past relationship with the U.S. government, e.g., the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 “…their land and property shall never be taken from them without their consent.” The U.S. government is the sole global super-power; it is in the position to be both violator and enforcer of a treaty.
Seventy-five years of ignorance and incompetence of Blackfeet tribal self-governance has produced a vile social system, which maintains the qualities of abject poverty that are: alcoholism, drug addiction, wife battering, child molestation, political corruption, a judicial system of injustice, and a corrupt drug using tribal police force of lawlessness that was seized at gun point by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Police force (a federal agency) in the spring of 2003. In this uncivilized community (Browning, Montana), there is no rule of law, no judicial review, no civil rights, and no civil liberties.
In summary, it is tribal self-governance that has generated the political, economic, and social destruction of their communities; the only way to advance the lives caught in this tragic situation is to eliminate tribal government. The U.S. Congress must eradicate the federal trust responsibility that binds and allows this paternal relationship to exist; it is this outmoded historical relationship that cripples the Indian. Article 4, Section. 3. – the U.S. Constitution, “…The Congress shall have the Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States….” In 1862, Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. President set forth The Emancipation Proclamation; and in 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery (elimination of tribal sovereignty and government can be accomplished within 5 years).
The proud culture of the Blackfeet tribe has been replaced by a centuries old U.S. federally induced culture of welfare. This culture of welfare constructed by the federal government destroys motivation and represses the welfare recipient’s incentive to achieve. Eliminating the reservation system will allow the Blackfeet tribe and other reservation tribes to declare themselves truly sovereign, which can only be achieved through personal and then collective responsibility and accountability. Reservation Indians must be given the same ‘tough love’ treatment that single mothers with dependents were given in the mid 1990’s; the elimination of open-ended federal entitlement money with a 5-year lifetime limit. Congress retains this authority based on their plenary power (full and complete) as sanctioned by the U.S. Constitution.
After all, it is the duty and responsibility of the government’s leaders to create the environment for employment, economic growth, and social stability; whether that governments’ leaders belong to the national government or a reservation tribe is beside the point. Former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt lifted the national economy from the worldwide Great Depression with his New Deal legislation; this accomplishment proved that successful management takes education, intelligence, knowledge, and successful business experience. These four leadership qualities are entirely unknown to tribal leaders, whom have proven to be completely incompetent and incapable of raising the standard of living on federal Indian reservations.