December 26, 2010

Limited gushing at tribal summit

Tribal leaders pushed Obama for proactive agenda

By Rob CapricciosoGushing was kept to a limit this year, although tribal leaders were more than willing to applaud for positive steps they think the administration has made, including settling the Cobell and Keepseagle cases, signing the Tribal Law and Order Act, and reauthorizing the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

Their applause was especially loud when Obama told them his intention to have the U.S. begin supporting the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, although many immediately began wondering what that would mean in terms of specific policy dealings and changes to federal-tribal relations.

They were also more than willing to be critical. In break-out sessions, some asked why the administration hadn’t done more to get Congress to pass a fix to the Supreme Court’s 2009 Carcieri decision, which limited Interior’s ability to take land into trust for tribes. Administration officials insisted they pushed hard on that matter, and promised to continue to do so–with tribal leaders promising to keep up the pressure.

Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter bluntly told Obama in a policy paper that he believed the president “has not put forward a strategic plan” to achieve goals to making tribal nations “full partners in America’s economy”–words Obama himself had used at his first tribal nations summit.

“Instead, he has set forth 26 proposed action items on multiple subjects that reflect a scattershot approach that undermines his commitment to any meaningful or lasting change,” the paper said.

Porter added in an interview that the Obama administration should be praised for the accomplishments it has made on Indian issues, but he cautioned that too much of the perceived progress has been focused on settling past injustices, like the Cobell case, rather than moving forward with proactive, visionary plans.

Porter said that if the president fails to embrace an aggressive Indian country legislative agenda, he runs the risk of focusing solely on administrative policy changes and legislative appropriation that “only promotes cosmetic changes to the status quo.”

In other words, lasting change will not be made.
Comment:  Excellent points. This article mirrors what I've been saying. Settling old cases and increasing program funding is nice, but it doesn't change the fundamental relationship between the tribes and the government. Adhering to the UN declaration might do that, but the declaration is non-binding and few think it will cause a significant shift.

Obama is doing better than previous presidents. But his accomplishments may be closer to the minimum than the maximum tribes expect. We're still waiting for "proactive, visionary plans" that go beyond the clichés and buzzwords.

For more on the subject, see US Praises Itself on Native Rights and How to Consult with 564 Tribes.

1 comment:

Burt said...

And that is all the attending natives did was applaud and cheer over "cliches and buzzwords", but that will be the peak of Obamas support.

Haven't we learned from over 200 years that speeches don't mean a thing?

When politicians speak publicly about what their intentions are, it is simply campaigning. Real change and policy intitiatives come without hoopla and public relations.

The last administration never let out a peep about what their "policies" were for taxpayers or voters, and they got little or no resistance from congress or the people.

I have stated this before and I will say it again. ANY and ALL executive challenges with this president and the last forty plus about the "Indian problem" runs counter to capitalism and corporate interests in America.

Obama would have to committ treason to do right by Indian country and we all know what happened to the last president that went against the "needs" of profits for the powerful military industrial complex, he was killed.