Going to do or have done? If some of the tribal leaders out there would take off their blinders they would recall politicians that said “I promise” and have met few that could proudly say, “This I have done.” One spews another long list of promises, the other presents a long list of accomplishments. Accomplishments or more promises: Which is best for Indian country?
McCain fought for and sponsored the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Since it became law NAGPRA has returned the remains of hundreds of Indians to their homelands for proper burial. The law has also protected Indian gravesites from demolition until the remains could be safely removed.
McCain has attempted to stop the federal recognition of Indian tribes by preventing them from going through the back door to gain recognition. He strongly opposes federal lawmakers from bypassing the Bureau of Indian Affairs and granting recognition to Indian tribes without fully exploring and investigating their claims of legitimacy.
Why did so many presidents of Indian colleges jump into the tank for Obama when it was McCain who has been their strongest supporter in Congress? McCain sponsored the legislation to reauthorize tribal colleges and he cast his vote in favor of the Native American Languages Act.
There is only one Native American serving as a federal prosecutor in this nation. She serves the District of Arizona and her name is Diane J. Humetewa, Hopi. She was recommended by McCain.
McCain's record on Indians
As I've asked before, what has McCain done lately for Indians? Let's look at Giago's list of reasons for choosing McCain.
1) The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and Native American Languages Act were both passed in 1990. That's 18 years ago, or ancient history in political terms. Obama undoubtedly would've voted for them if he'd been in Congress then.
2) McCain "has attempted to stop the federal recognition of Indian tribes by preventing them from going through the back door to gain recognition." One could consider this position pro-Indian: McCain doesn't want illegitimate tribes to gain recognition and thereby take resources away from legitimate tribes. Or one could consider it anti-Indian: Tribes tend to go through the "back door" only after the front door is closed in their faces. Why hasn't McCain reformed the recognition process so tribes can get an answer in a couple of years rather than a couple of decades, as is presently the case?
Moreover, why is Giago giving McCain so much credit for an "attempt"? McCain attempted to oppose Bush's budget-busting tax cuts before flipping like a moral coward and supporting them. Attempts shouldn't impress Giago or anyone too much.
McCain's position on recognition is mixed at best. To me it doesn't seem like much to brag about.
The Humetewa appointment
3) A little history on the Humetewa appointment from Indianz.com:
Humetewa has worked for the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona and for McCain during his two tenures as chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
McCain couldn't get Humetewa appointed as the interim US Attorney, so how much clout did he have? It sounds as if she was Bush's second choice when he finally appointed her.
Perhaps most important, Humetewa was a longtime McCain backer. It doesn't take much daring to nominate one of your supporters--someone who agrees with you on the issues. I'd be more impressed if McCain did his "maverick" thing and appointed someone who wasn't in his camp already.
To answer the "What has McCain done lately?" question, let's give him one provisional point for nominating Humetewa and half a point for his stance on recognition. And...that's it. Out of dozens if not hundreds of legislative actions, Giago can come up with 1.5 examples of McCain's pro-Indian positions in the last 17 years.
Wow. If he's impressed with that...well, most Indians aren't. That's why they're overwhelmingly backing Obama.
Giago's black and white position
There's also this odd note in Giago's column:
I believe Giago was a Hillary Clinton supporter in the primaries. She hasn't been in the Senate that long and doesn't have any major Indian-oriented accomplishments. Bill Clinton may have a track record, but he made those decisions, not Hillary. Obama can pledge to follow in Bill's footsteps as well as Hillary can.
Most of Hillary's Indian platform consisted of promises similar to Obama's. Moreover, Clinton has endorsed Obama. So how did Giago go from Clinton's promises to McCain's meager record while skipping over Obama's promises? What's the common denominator between Clinton and McCain--besides their skin color, of course?
For more on the subject, see The 2008 Presidential Campaign.