Senator Feinstein Is Scarier Than Frankenstein for Indian Country

Pondering the state of current affairs impacting Indian country, it amazes me there are so many issues being thrust out there which affect the entirety for most of the tribes. These are important and “key” issues which could have a long term effect on tribes and their tribal members.

It’s a little early, but California Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein is already running around the country dressed up for Halloween as Frankenstein and attempting to scare everyone into submission to her ideas.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to block an Indian casino project in Phoenix, Arizona, even as the Obama administration and state and federal courts have clearly affirmed Tohono O’odham Nation’s (TON) right to construct a gaming development. This amounts to another stab at eroding tribal sovereignty and keeping Indian Country scratching and clawing to create economic success.

Currently, the TON plans to build a 225,000-square-foot gaming facility not far from the Cardinals’ football stadium in the suburb of Glendale, AZ. Representative Trent Franks (R-Arizona), said the tribe “operated in bad faith” by pursuing the project.

When Congress adopted the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA) (P.L. 73-383), it intended to allow Native Americans to resurrect their culture and traditions lost to government expansion and encroachment upon their lands. The act replaced the Indian General Allotment Act of 1887, known as the Dawes Act. The Dawes Act, reduced Native American lands totaling 138 million acres in 1887 to 48 million acres by 1934.

The IRA, also known as the Wheeler-Howard Act, terminated the Dawes Act's allotment system and authorized the secretary of the interior to purchase additional lands or proclaim new reservations for tribes.

Luther Strange’s current agenda is to shut down every betting house in Alabama. Strange said the issue boils down to what games are legal. “Are we going to be able to make them, or is it going to be some bureaucrat in Washington?” Strange said.

Another current major gaming opposition is coming from Feinstein, seeking to curb tribal gaming expansion in her state of California, and is stalling casino projects throughout the country. Feinstein is charging head on against all efforts to create new gaming expansion not just in her state, but also throughout the country.

Feinstein is using the Carcieri v. Salazar, 555 U.S. 379 (2009), ruling focused on the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. The Supreme Court ruled that Congress’ use of the word “now” in the act, only applied to those tribes under federal jurisdiction in that year or earlier. These are supposed to be the brightest and smartest minds who are the only ones who know what Congress meant when they said “now.” Does that mean that Thomas Jefferson’s insertion into the U.S. Constitution that “All men are created equal” only applied to non-slaves, or other people of color? The United States Supreme Court’s lesson to Indian country in elementary grammar is absurd.

Mashpee Chairman Cedric Cromwell said that Feinstein is “willing to hold hostage the nationally needed Carcieri fix, and willing to throw newly recognized and disadvantaged tribes from all across the United States under the bus.”

Former Senator Byron Dorgan, then-chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and a North Dakota Democrat, in 2010 introduced a “Carcieri fix,” and his panel approved it. The Senate has never voted on it.

Senator Maria Cantwell, chairwoman of Indian Affairs told the NCAI in February 2013 that passing a Carcieri fix was “one of the top priorities” for her panel this year. Still no fix.

Representative Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican and as a member of the Chickasaw Nation, the highest-ranking member of Congress who is a registered American Indian and a supporter of the change, said moving the legislation has been “like trying to line up a Rubik’s cube.”

Legislation has been introduced repeatedly to remove the word “now,” and each time it faced resistance led by Feinstein. The senator said in an interview that she and her colleagues “may well” be willing to undo the Carcieri decision—if such legislation includes road blocks to expanded gambling.

Indian country is at a point where Congress isn’t looking to help us help them, but rather, continuing their frontal and backdoor assault on Indian Sovereignty at any cost.

They are stealing our babies through illegal adoptions, taking our land or our right to manage it the way we see fit, attempting to tax us through property, taxing distribution of federal grants to tribal members, reducing general assistance grants, reducing the USDA Food Distribution Program, cutting HEADSTART for our young children, attempting to interpret “our” tribal enrollment ordinances, and generally sucking the life out of us by reduction and sequestration of funds which were promised by treaty.

Treaties which Indian Country is constantly reminded we are bound by, but the U.S. Federal Government isn’t. Figure that out.

Jay Daniels has 30 years of experience working in Indian Country, managing trust lands and is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. You can find resources and information at http://roundhousetalk.com.

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Senator Feinstein Is Scarier Than Frankenstein for Indian Country

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