The other day my husband came home and told me about something he heard on the “Laura Ingraham Show.” He told me she was commenting about President Barack Obama signing the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, the result of a 14-year legal battle over the mismanagement of the Indian Trust Fund. Ms. Ingraham commented that Natives lost their lands and should just “get over it.”
President Obama during the signing of this act made it clear why he was doing so: “It’s about restoring a sense of trust between the American people and the government.” Article VI, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution (the Supremacy Clause) establishes that treaties made by the United States shall be the Supreme Law of the Land and mandates that all judges shall uphold these treaties.
Treaties were made, hundreds of them, with many of the more than 500 indigenous nations residing on the North American continent. These treaties were made so there would be a cessation of hostilities and an exchange of materials between the signatories. In most cases, Native lands were transferred to the U.S. government in exchange for various provisions such as access to medical care and education.
These treaties do not have an expiration date. In fact, most of them read (in the flowery language of years past) that the treaties will remain in effect for “as long as the grass shall grow and the rivers flow.”
The treaties are still in effect; the treaties that were agreed upon by the U.S. government and hundreds of indigenous nations; the treaties that the U.S. Constitution set forth as the Supreme Law of the Land.
The Indian Trust Fund was established by the U.S. government to “manage” the holdings of the tribes that live within U.S. borders. This has nothing to do with government hand-outs; this is lease money that companies pay for extracting minerals, timber, coal, oil and other resources from Indian-owned lands.
The U.S government was supposed to be handling these lease funds for Native people, but audit after audit revealed mismanagement, misappropriation, incompetence and billions of missing dollars.
If someone was handling your money for you and you discovered that billions of dollars were missing, you would try to get your money back, or at least try to find out where it all went. After more than 100 years of complaints, that’s what finally happened in 1996 when Elouise Cobell initiated a class-action suit to try to account for the billions of dollars missing from the Indian Trust Fund.
Ms. Ingraham, there is nothing to “get over.” All Natives are asking is that the United States follow the rule of law and uphold its own Constitution. If you don’t like it, you can just “get over it.”
– Lilly Sanovia
Rapid City, S.D.