Later this morning President Barack Obama will make yet another pitch, calling on Congress to stop the sequester with a balanced approach. Of course nothing will happen today. Congress is not even in town. Congress being Congress took the week before the sequester off.
But before I get back to writing about the politics of the sequester, and, more important, the longer impact of austerity on Native American programs, I wanted to add my view of two recent books: “Iveska,” by Charles Trimble, and “This Indian Country,” by Frederick E. Hoxie. I read both of these books through the filter of Indian Country’s current challenges.
A little background. A couple of years ago I wrote, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars.” In that book I made the case that the self-determination era was different because it ended the debate about whether tribal governments should even exist in this century. (It’s about Forrest Gerard and how Sen. Henry Jackson went from championing termination to sponsoring the self-determination act in Congress.)
My title was too optimistic and wrong; there are many battles left to fight.
Indian Country has had a run of some forty years where Democrats and Republicans have pledged their support to the idea that tribal governments are best equipped to solve the problems of Indian Country. But over the last couple of years that has started to change. There is growing number of politicians, who, in the name of austerity, are proposing radical ideas that are essentially a reprise of the termination policy of the 1950s. Want proof? Look no further than Sen. Rand Paul’s plan to balance the budget in five years. The Kentucky Republican’s proposes economic termination.
That’s why Trimble’s book is worth reading now. The former executive director of the National Congress of American Indians looks back at several challenges that Indian Country faced during this modern era, including termination and the 1970s backlash. I am always inspired after reading accounts of the Colville Tribe’s rejection of termination and the leadership of Lucy Covington. Trimble was recruited by Covington to start a newspaper, “Our Heritage,” as part of that effort.
A few years later, in the 95th Congress, Trimble writes about another challenge to Indian Country, the backlash. There were fourteen pieces of legislation that would have reversed tribal hunting and fishing rights, court victories, terminating federal-tribal relations, and abrogating Indian treaties.
The way forward was for a grand coalition, an action coalition, that worked together to limit and then reverse the dangerous ideas that were coming from Congress. “NCAI pulled Indian Country together and the backlash was defeated, including every piece of anti-Indian legislation that came out of the movement,” Trimble writes. “It was interesting to note that the principal sponsors of those pieces of legislation were also defeated in their bids for re-election.” (more…)