I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America
And to the Republic for which it stands
One Nation under God Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all…
How many times in our lifetimes have we stood up placed our hand over our heart and recited the pledge of allegiance? Personally, I grew up reciting the pledge every morning at school and I remember how these words affected me even at a young age. I grew up in the 70’s…a decade wrought with its own political issues such as the Arab oil embargo of 73, the water gate scandal, and Nixon's presidency. As I read these words today after all I have seen and learned over the past three years fighting for my rights as the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe tries to take land into trust and build a casino resort in Middleboro, I wonder who, if anyone, in our Government lives and works by these words. Do we have leaders who actually believe in one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all?…I don’t know about our Government, but I do know I had the honor and pleasure to meet a group of people from across this great country who do believe in liberty and justice for all and who tirelessly fight to affect change that ensures that we all really do live in one indivisible Nation.
How many truths does one lie destroy?
This question sums up the 2010 Annual CERA conference I recently had the honor to attend. The conference was entitled Betrayed Trust: Taxation without Representation - Representation without Taxation.
The conference started with an introduction discussing this very question and how fear and fatalism caused by flawed Indian Policy and corrupt Tribal governments quells the voice of United States citizens, including and most importantly the voices of Native Americans living under corrupt Tribal Governments. The voices of people needing help but are afraid to speak out, and those who do are intimidated into silence and blatantly ignored by the US government. The voices of US citizens across this great Nation who are fighting to protect their homes, communities and many cases entire counties from being taken from them by the Federal Government, placed into Trust and given away as independent sovereign land that is not subject to local, state and many federal regulations. Land that is run by Tribal Governments where the rights and equal protection guaranteed to all citizens by the United States Constitution does not apply. Our own Government, through flawed Federal Indian Policy has created a system and policy whereby nepotism and favoritism effectively dismantled our so called “One Nation” and has created two distinct classes of people right here within our own Country. Federal Indian Policy is an utter complete failure. It is unaccountable, destructive, racist and unconstitutional and the absolute profound effects of this failure became quite evident to me at this conference.
Separate but Equal
One of the most fascinating and eye opening presentations was given by an amazingly intelligent and wonderful woman who also happens to be a CERA lawyer. Her presentation was entitled “The Dred Scott Constitutional Split”. This was a fascinating and difficult discussion as to how Native Americans in our Country are considered “separate but equal” by our Government regardless of the fact that they were granted citizenship in 1924, and regardless of the fact that the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act which was supposed to be a benefit to Indians, still keeps them as wards of the Federal Government…they are “separate but equal”. The realization of this has really bothered me. I mean, how is it possible that in 2010 we have a group of people who are American citizens with all civil rights granted to them under the US Constitution as long as they are not enrolled members of a federally recognized tribe or live on an Indian Reservation? How is it possible that the Federal Government still considers American Indians as belligerents and continues to keep them as wards of the Government and defines tribal members as “separate but equal”?
The Ultimate Truth
I listened to the story of a wonderful Native American woman who made the decision to unenroll herself from her Tribe so she would not be considered a ward of the federal government and enjoy the freedoms granted to all US citizens under the Constitution. A woman who stood up and said “I don’t need the Federal Government to tell me I am an Indian…I already know this.”
I heard the story of a Native American gentleman who had his land legally given to him by his mother at her death suddenly taken away from him by his own Tribal Government and there was nothing he could do about it….not until he met the CERA lawyer who has been working tirelessly to help him regain and take back what is rightfully his.
I listened to the story of a Native American gentleman who truly believes that Tribal sovereignty creates more problems than it solves…who lived through his own personal hell with the fear and intimidation pushed on him and his family by his Tribal Government.
I listened to town and county government officials talk about the struggles they constantly face due to flawed Indian Policy and how their rights are ignored by the Federal Government.
The Ultimate Betrayal
I listened to two people who were part of the Salamanca sixteen and how the ultimate betrayal of our Federal Government left them with no rights by supporting another sovereign nation and effectively leaving them with nothing.
“How would most Americans feel if one day Congress passed a law that said they no longer owned their homes? In 1990 Congress did just that to approximately 3,000 people in Salamanca, New York and surrounding communities…they ordered us out of our homes that we bought and paid for. They were officials from the United States Justice Department sent by the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs aided and abetted by the Congress of the United States and the Governor and Legislators of the State of New York. Ultimate betrayal by all….When we testified before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in 1996 and fully explained our denied due process and equal protection under the law, Senator Inouye of Hawaii said: Well, we’ll certainly see that this never happens to anyone else in the United States - But…they did let it happen to us." - speech quote from a Salamanca Sixteen survivor
Hope Springs Eternal
I went to this conference and listened to the stories of people from all over the country who are struggling to survive under repressions from land in trust issues, fee to trust issues, Indian casino issues, basic civil rights issues…..Native Americans, ordinary people like you and me, town and state government officials all trying to protect their rights. I listened to the mess created by flawed Indian Policy and the many, many stories I heard over the course of two days put me through a range of emotions….outrage and anger, sadness, horror, and yes even elation for the small wins. Hearing these stories has given back to me something I thought I had lost over the past year….my overall motivation to stop the apathy and help affect change in government. I have found people who welcomed me with open arms, who listened to and sympathized with my own personal plight and who have given me hope in the future of our great Nation.
I got into this fight because the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe wanted to take land into trust as an initial reservation and build a casino resort to the likes of Foxwoods three miles from my home. I was called a NIMBY by casino supporters and when I first started in this I was….but I educated myself and learned that I shouldn’t blame the Mashpee Tribe itself for my lack of rights in this issue, but to blame the unaccountability of Tribal Government and my own Federal Government and especially the flawed Indian Policy that only helps Tribal Governments rule as tyrants while leaving the rest of us to pick up the pieces…I also learned that I am a NIMBY...a NIMBY who was fortunate enough to realize that my backyard extends far beyond an acre in Carver Massachusetts….one that extends to every corner of this great Nation. I can thank the good people who make up organizations like CERA and CERF for giving me hope that we can affect change for the good of all who call this great Nation home and for opening my eyes to truth behind Indian Policy and how this policy actually is the Ultimate Betrayal to all of us.
CERF and CERA’S Mission Statement
Federal Indian Policy is unaccountable, destructive, racist and unconstitutional. It is therefore CERA’s mission to ensure the equal protection of the law as guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution of the United States of America.
For more information please visit www.citizensalliance.org
Any appeasement of tyranny is treason to this republic and to the democratic ideal - William Allen White
Oppression is but another name for irresponsible power - Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
“Be the Change you to see in the World”