By Mark Trahant
National Congress of American Indians President Joseph Garry, a member of Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Tribe, said at the 1958 convention, that Congress adopted the termination resolution in good faith ... “believing it would be good for Indian people” even though it was clearly dangerous and a disaster. That’s why nearly everyone, friends and foe alike, were at least partial supporters of termination policy.
Utah’s Republican Senator Arthur Watkins was from the shrink-and-attack government camp. He was zealous about termination, badgering tribal witnesses when they came to Capitol Hill, refusing to even consider alternatives. He dismissed treaty obligations outright. Indians, he said, “want all the benefits of the things we have--highways, schools, hospitals, everything that civilization furnished--but they don’t want to help pay their share of it.”
This story should have a familiar ring to it. The same forces are at play when it comes to austerity. One camp sees the problem--the country’s demographic imbalance--and opts for austerity as a solution or at least a partial solution. While the other camp hates government and sees austerity as a tool to shrink and attack. Arthur Watkins would be at home in a Tea Party crowd.
Termination was an Indian-specific version of this political philosophy.
For more on Indians as welfare recipients, see Natives "Filed Away" by Stereotypes and Canadian Candidate Quits Over "Hateful" Comments.