Since the Government of the United States first coveted Indigenous property for its continental dominion, U.S. policy has consisted exclusively of false promises and real threats to American Indians; what it couldn’t take through brute force, it took by sleight of hand. No deal was ever done; reservations established by treaty were later unilaterally diminished, divided and devastated by the U.S. in pursuit of plunder.
Today, two and a half centuries into American governance, the U.S. has yet to honor a single treaty with the Indian Nations. Despite international law and court rulings that exposed ongoing collusion between the U.S. Government and industries in defrauding American Indians of extraction royalties, the U.S. is still looking for ways to steal what little wealth these nations manage to produce for themselves.
Having neglected its obligations and betrayed its promises to American Indians, one might think the U.S. Government would at least be willing to let tribal governments provide housing, health and education to tribal members without interference, but that is apparently not the case. As illustrated in a recent article, the Internal Revenue Service has attacked tribal sovereignty by claiming the right to tax tribal benefits.
Whatever one might think about the historical injustices that led to the current conflict between the U.S. Government and the 566 Indian Nations in the U.S., it is a fact that the theft of their lands caused their impoverishment, the theft of their children caused their dysfunction, and the theft of their culture shattered their identities.
While many of us in the U.S. feel cheated by a government that spends our money bailing out banks and rewarding fraud, is that any reason to support punishing American Indian tribes for trying to take care of their people? As citizens of the U.S., we have a choice between a wrecking or a reckoning of our relationship with American Indians. Should that choice be left to the duplicity of the U.S. Government, or should we, too, have a say?
*For further information, see the Intertribal Tax Initiative compiled by the National Congress of American Indians.