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This original draft reprinted with permission of the author. An edited
version of this article appeared in the Fall 2000 issue of
Bruce E. Johansen
As an increasing number of Native American governments exercise the nuts and bolts of sovereignty -- developing infrastructure, establishing business enterprises, managing land use, and levying taxes -- more non-Indian landowners within reservation boundaries are crying "Taxation without representation." Non-Indians, who own at least half of many checkerboarded reservations, are organizing locally and nationally with renewed vigor around efforts to strip reservation governments of their legal powers.
Anti-sovereignty efforts are not new. They are as old as the colonization of Turtle Island itself. When John Fleming, Skagit Valley Republican, persuaded Washington State Republicans to adopt a resolution advocating the dissolution of reservation governments in their election-year platform late last spring, the action evoked memories of Andrew Jackson, the Trail of Tears, and 1950s-era termination efforts. Fleming then stoked the controversy red hot by advocating that the armed forces be used to evict Native peoples who refuse to surrender their sovereignty without a fight.
Fleming is a prototype of the newest wave of termination advocates -- reservation landowners who complain that they are being treated as an oppressed minority. Members of these groups reject the notion of semi-sovereign Native nations, as they reject nearly two centuries of legal precedent in the United States which began with the landmark Supreme Court rulings of Chief Justice John Marshall in the Cherokee cases of the 1830s.
During 1995, for example, the Crows levied a 4 percent tax on businesses which cater to the many tourists who visit the Little Bighorn battlefield where George Armstrong Custer and 209 of his men lost their lives June 25, 1876. Many of these businesses are owned by non-Indians, who immediately branded the levy "taxation without representation," and refused to pay it. As owners of the Custer Battlefield Trading Post and Custer Battlefield Museum refused to pay the Crow tax, they filed liens for $51,730 on the trading post, which is owned by James Thompson.
As these protests gained momentum, Senator Conrad Burns, Montana Republican, readied a bill that would exempt Montana reservation land owned by non-Indians from Native jurisdiction. (Gransbery) Burns' proposal would grant Montana civil jurisdiction over non-Indians living and conducting business on private lands within Montana's reservations. About 40 percent of the Crow reservation is owned by non-Indians. (Egan) Nationally, non-Indian land holdings on specific reservations range from none (the Akwesasne Mohawks, for example, will not allow it) to about 90 percent of the land on the White Earth reservation in Minnesota.
Montana's Native leaders have categorically rejected Burns' proposal, calling it a blind-sided assault on jurisdictional issues on which the tribes have already prevailed in court. All of Montana's seven Native governments lined up against the bill.
Michael T. Pablo, chairman of the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders' Council, pointed out that the Enabling Act for the State of Montana specifically excludes Indian reservations from state jurisdiction. "The Enabling Act language is all-important, yet it was not even mentioned in Burns' bill," Pablo wrote in the Billings Gazette. (Pablo)
Anti-sovereignty groups' names often combine patriotic symbols to evoke notions of political fairness and equality. In Upstate New York, for example, the major group opposing Native sovereignty calls itself the Upstate Citizens for Equality (UCE) National groups include the Citizens' Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) and the Interstate Congress for Equal Rights and Responsibilities (ICERR). Other names are similar: Citizens' Rights Organization, Montanans Opposing Discrimination, Concerned Landowners Association, All Citizens Equal, Flathead [Montana] Residents Earning Equality (FREE).
In both the United States and Canada, anti-sovereignty groups often assume names which focus their energies on non-Native access to fish and game. The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, which is affiliated with Canada's Conservative Party, has expressed a special interest is ending Native fishing rights under an "equal rights for all" rubric. Howard Hanson, a major figure in Minnesota's Proper Economic Resource Management (PERM) and a board member of CERA, also founded another organization called The Hunting and Angling Club. Another group (in Minnesota) calls itself Sportsmen Protecting Every American's Right (SPEAR).
Protect Americans' Rights and Resources (PARR) was formed during the early 1990s in Wisconsin to battle the Chippewas who reasserted their rights to spear fish in area lakes. PARR's agenda has since branched out to include everything from blanket opposition to U.S. Federal Indian policy to gun control to curbs on smoking.
All Citizens Equal (ACE) goes beyond the usual complaints about Indians' "special rights," to a broad attack on Native sovereignty. This group specializes in lobbying Congress to affirm absolute rights of private property.
FIRE ("Federation for Individual Rights and Equality") operates in several Canadian provinces, calling for the application of Canadian law to Native peoples. This group argues that Native nations' powers should be restricted to those exercised by a municipal government. The Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, another anti-treaty private-property lobby, is headed by Alan Gottlieb, a firearms activist, and Ron Arnold, founder of the "Wise Use" movement. The British Columbia Real Estate Association's (BCREA) position on Native sovereignty is close to that of FIRE: indigenous nations should be subsumed under Canadian provincial and federal governments. Like many of its allies, the BCREA favors municipal-style governmental models for Native groups.
Major Themes in the Anti-sovereignty Movement
Zoltan Grossman, author of When Hate Groups Come to Town (1992), identified three major factors which unite anti-sovereignty advocates:
- The call for "equal rights for whites." This concept is based on the assumption that increased political and jurisdictional power of the tribes infringes on the liberties of the individual American taxpayer.
- Access to natural resources. These resources can be fish or game, land or water, but the case is the same: no citizens should have "special rights" to use the resources. The case is made in anti-treaty pamphlets such as Are We Giving America Back to the Indians?, and 200 Million Custers, and the ironically titled book Don't Blame the Indians: Native Americans and the Mechanized Destruction of Fish and Wildlife by Massachusetts writer Ted Williams.
- Economic dependency. In a rural reflection of the "welfare Cadillac" myths used against urban African-Americans, all reservation Indians are said to wallow in welfare, food stamps, free housing and medical care, affirmative-action programs, and gargantuan federal cash payments, all tax-free, of course. (No one has to pay state sales tax on reservations, but otherwise Indians have had virtually identical tax obligations as non-Indians.) (Grossman)
John Fleming's Skagit County Context
John Fleming, who catapulted the anti-sovereignty movement into Washington State party politics, lives within the borders of the Swinomish reservation in Western Washington, where non-Indians who own almost half the reservation's 6,000 acres have formed the Fidalgo Alliance for an Informed Republic (FAIR), which lobbies against the Swinomish tribal government. "The tribe doesn't own it [the land]," contends Larry Collinge, a spokesman of FAIR. "We own it as citizens and taxpayers of this republic." (Parr, n.d.,) To this, Swinomish Tribal Attorney Jamie Weber replied: "It was their choice to come live on an Indian reservation. If you own a summer home in Canada, you don't get to vote, but you pay taxes and you follow the laws. It doesn't make the Canadian government not a real government." (Parr, n.d.)
Members of FAIR have presented Skagit County commissioners with a petition demanding an end to an agreement between the Swinomish and the county which instructs both to work together on land-use planning for privately owned reservation land. Collinge, who has lived on the Swinomish reservation for twenty years, gathered about 200 signatures from non-Indian property owners on the petition, which advocates repeal of the "memorandum of understanding" between the Swinomish and Skagit County. (Parr, Dec. 15, 1998) Under the joint arrangement, landowners must apply for permits from both Skagit County and the Swinomish. FAIR believes that county zoning should prevail. The net result: the Swinomish would lose authority over land use on nearly half their reservation to which non-Indians hold title.
During the late fall of 1998, FAIR hosted an informational meeting for a capacity crowd at the Hope Island Fire Hall in LaConner, "to address the Swinomish Tribe's new 3 percent business privilege tax ordinance." (Angry Group) The tax, approved by the Tribal Senate in August, "will be charged to utility providers, who will likely pass down the cost to their customers." (Angry Group) Utilities falling under the tax include water, power, garbage collection, cable, local and long- distance telephone services, wireless communications (cell phones and pagers), septic services, gas, propane, heating oil and sewer. Many of the non-Indian landowners at the meeting complained that they are being doubly taxed: by the Swinomish, and by Skagit County. Once again, the non-Indians who live on the Swinomish reservation complained of "taxation without representation." (Angry Group)
Reaction to the Washington Republican Resolution
During the weeks between passage of Fleming's resolution and the National Republican Convention in late July, many Republican political figures in Washington State distanced themselves from the termination plank in their party's platform. One of the most prominent was Senator Slade Gorton, who found himself in the awkward position of handling his party's platform as one might carry an agitated skunk. "He absolutely disagrees that we should do away with tribal governments," Gorton spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman said. According to an account in the Yakima Herald-Republic, Bergman then sketched Gorton's position: "Tribes have the right to govern their own members, but Gorton doesn't think tribes can govern non-tribal members living on reservations." (Barenti) This is the core demand of the anti-sovereignty movement.
Within days of the Washington Republicans' resolution, which Fleming initiated, the California Democratic Party and the Democrats' Native American Caucus passed resolutions denouncing it. The resolutions for both bodies were co-authored by Art Torres, chairman of the California Democratic Party, and Frank LaMere, a vice chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, who is Winnebago. "It is an outrage. I call upon the Republican National Committee to publicly repudiate the wayward and blatantly racist actions of the Washington Republican party," LaMere said. "It is divisive to even speak of turning our military against our own. That's what they have done in Washington and they need to be ashamed," said LaMere, who lost a brother in the Vietnam War. (DeArmond)
An editorial in the Billings Gazette called Fleming's remarks about calling out the armed forces to put an end to Native governments "shades of Gen. George Armstrong Custer." (Semantics)
Aside from a few Indian supporters of the anti-sovereignty cause (described below), Native American reaction to anti-sovereignty proposals has been overwhelmingly negative. Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe in Washington State, and a Republican, said: "The mentality of this is such an anachronism in our society. This ... goes back to the old Indian wars." (Montana)
"It's pretty sad to see that happen in this date and time," said Susan Masten, president of the National Congress of American Indians. (NCAI)
"I think what you are seeing nationally are a series of attacks on the centuries-old right of Indian self-government," said Tim Coulter (Potawatomi), executive director of the Indian Law Resource Center in Helena, Montana. (Egan)
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell R-Colo., pointed out that tribal self-determination is a Republican idea established by President Nixon during the early 1970s, part of a long history of Republican Party support for the idea. (Montana)
Mark Trahant (Shoshone Bannock), a Seattle Times columnist wrote: "Political termination of tribal governments is a policy that's been tried before -- and it failed. Only a few decades ago, the Colville Confederated Tribes in this state barely survived termination attempts by the Congress. That tribe is stronger today -- economically, politically and culturally -- because it convinced its own membership, and then the greater community, that the U.S. ought to continue to honor its word. This position is mainstream Republican. It was, after all, President Nixon who told the Congress that termination had been a mistake." (Trahant)
The resolution was rescinded by the Washington State GOP on July 27.
The anti-sovereignty movement has been busy on Capitol Hill, doing its best to erode Native American treaty rights on the road to "devolution" of federal power to the states, which has been emphasized in the Republican-controlled House and Senate. When the new Congress convenes early in 2001, tribes will be bracing for the return of an old nemesis: attempts to collect state sales and excise taxes on transactions by reservation businesses. They also may be facing new modifications to existing tax, environmental, and other laws aimed at circumventing the powers of Native governments.
The sales-tax proposals may be replated versions of House Resolution 1814, introduced in 1999, which threatened loss of trust land if state taxes are not paid. This issue has assumed a new salience as more Native nations have developed their national infrastructure by levying taxes of their own. In this context, state efforts to impose taxes may amount to double taxation. Such a proposal, if enacted, would empower the assistant secretary of the Interior Department to remove the land upon which a retail business is located if that business "consistently and willfully" refuses to pay state taxes. The land would then be subject to all state and local laws, including forfeiture for the unpaid taxes.
H.R. 1814 was introduced by Representatives Pete Visclosky (D-Tenn.) and Ernest Istook (R-Okla). Under their proposal, Native nations that allow collection of state taxes would be provided a priority status in competition for federal-government contracts. "In addition, each tribe will be notified by the Interior Department if they are under investigation for tax liability by the local governments to ensure the tribe will receive due process in meeting tax obligations." (Gray)
Loss of trust status would, according to the National Congress of American Indians, "eliminate tribal authority regarding taxation and make the property subject to all applicable state and local sales taxes." The bill proposed that trust status be restored if tax payments are made. According to NCAI, "Not since the Allotment Era of 1877 to 1934 has Congress passed legislation designed to take tribal land out of trust status. After stealing more than 90 million acres of tribal lands ... less than 8 percent [has] been recovered." (Legislative Update)
Reservation businesses face a stiff test on this issue from the National Governors' Association, as well as from off-reservation business interests. Addressing hearings on the proposal before the House Committee on Resources during October 1999, NGA executive director Ray Scheppach asserted that "The failure of retail establishments on Indian trust lands to collect sales taxes and excise taxes on tobacco and gasoline places merchants who comply with the law at unfair price disadvantages. On products like gasoline and tobacco, the tax is a very large percentage of the cost of the good." (Testimony)
Michael Holahan, chief executive officer of the North American Truck Stop Network and member of NATSO, a national association of truck-stop owners, told the same hearing that the problem of tax-free sales on tribal lands is growing, threatening tax-collecting businesses and state governments across the country. "Native American business owners who aren't collecting state taxes from non-tribal members can gain a significant advantage selling two principal products -- fuel and cigarettes," he said. (Holahan)
Measures that would impose state taxes on Native businesses are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg of anti-sovereignty efforts in the House and Senate. The American Indian Research and Policy Institute (AIRPI) of Minneapolis-St. Paul issued a detailed report, "Contemporary Threats to Tribal Sovereignty From Congress," describing anti-sovereignty legislation in Congress during the 1990s. The report found that "Much of this legislation is designed to strip tribal authority and to grant states more regulatory power in Indian Country."
The report found that legislative attempts to curtail Native sovereignty fell into several areas, including proposed amendments to existing laws affecting the Child Welfare Act (1978); proposed amendments to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (1988); proposed taxation of Indian gaming; extension of state sales taxes to non-Indians on trust lands, and proposed amendments to regulatory authority of Indian tribes in the name of environmental protection.
The AIRPI noted that "the federal government has historically carried out its trust responsibility to Indians in education, health and welfare via federal social programs. As devolution proceeds and social programs are transferred to states, many Indian programs at the federal level risk being similarly transferred. . . . The intent of this legislation is to move people off welfare and into the job market. The point is lost in Indian Country where most reservations have little economic base and there are few jobs for Indian people." For example, funds for Indian social programs have been defined as discretionary spending, not as an obligation mandated by treaties and the trust obligation.
Also during the 105th Congress, Sen. Slade Gorton introduced a provision to the fiscal year 1998 Department of Interior appropriations bill that would have imposed a means test for federal funding. The means test translated into cuts or reduction of federal funds for tribes exceeding a pre-set level of independent tribal income. The funding cuts would have affected tribes with income from gaming, resource extraction and tribe-imposed taxes. This provision was dropped after pressure from reservation governments. Gorton also proposed waiving sovereign immunity for Native nations, but this was defeated in the Senate. Another of Gorton's proposals would require tribal governments to purchase tort liability insurance, and would place jurisdiction over tribal liability suits in federal district courts, bypassing tribal courts. (Keeping Watch)
The devolutionists have other ideas as well. One of them, H.R. 325 (1997), would amend the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (1988) to grant states greater leverage in compact negotiations, as well as the capacity to tax gaming revenue. H.R. 334 (1997), "The Fair Indian Gaming Act," sought to shift the burden of proof from the states to Native nations in gaming-compact negotiations. This bill, another example of devolution at work, would have transferred IGRA oversight from the Interior Department to the governor's office or a given state's legislature. This proposal also called for a two-year moratorium on class III gaming. The bill also contained increased record-keeping requirements for Indian gaming establishments. State attorneys general also are directed to investigate Native gaming -- an extension of state legal jurisdiction.
In the realm of environment, amendments have been proposed to the Clean Water Act (1977) that would strip tribes of their authority to regulate water policies on reservations. Amendments proposed during the 105th Congress to environmental legislation, such as the Endangered Species Act (1973), Superfund (1994), the Clean Water Act (1977), and nuclear-waste storage law, could all affect Indian Country. (Contemporary Threats)
In 1997, the House considered H.R. 193, which would prohibit any area from being declared a historic district, site or national monument that is defined as "unimproved" or "unmodified natural landscape." According to one analyst, "This would affect tribal sacred lands. Tribal land is also threatened by H.R. 253 (1997) which gives holders of mineral claims exclusive rights to possession and use of land for mineral activities." (Contemporary Threats)
Street Theater in Upstate New York
The Upstate Citizens for Equality is comprised largely of property holders who believe that some or all of what they own may become part of several land claims being pursued by the original five nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, the Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Ononodaga, and Oneida. An Internet home page maintained by the UCE leads with a question: "People are facing eviction from their homes for expansion of Indian reservations. Are you next?" (Upstate Citizens).
UCE characterizes itself as "a citizen organization that is working to fight Indian land claims in Central New York and change the course of Federal Indian policy." UCE has opened chapters in Oneida, Madison, Seneca, Cayuga and Niagara counties, and claims a state-wide membership of more than 8,200. (Seely)
The UCE chapter in Madison County, New York, specializes in street theater, especially outside the Oneida's Turning Stone casino. A UCE "border patrol" marks the boundary of the Oneida Nation with yellow "caution" tape, telling patrons that they leave their rights under the U.S. Constitution at the border. Colorfully-dressed "border guards" stand at attention as lines of picketers mill around them. Protesters rally around mock "Patriot" missiles; signs carry the name of Ray Halbritter, the Oneida Nation representative.
The John Birch Society put Halbritter's face on the cover of its New American magazine, calling him "High-Rollin', Land-Grabbin' Ray." A sign along Route 46 displayed a rifle and the words: "Ray, come and get your rent." The mock missile making the rounds near Verona bore the inscription, "Heads up, Ray." (Seely)
The specific concern of UCE in Madison County (and the reason its members spend so much time picketing the Turning Stone) is the use, by the Oneidas, of casino profits to buy land that was once part of their traditional estate. Before the casino opened, Oneida land holdings had been reduced to about 30 acres.
A UCE web page appeals to class biases as it recruits: "Instead of going to the Turning Stone for entertainment, why not join the UCE picketers? You'll meet a much better class of people at UCE than at the Turning Stone!!" One day on the picket lines, brags the web page, "Ten cars turned around and left after reading a picket sign that said `No health inspectors. Enjoy your meal'." (Upstate Citizens)
For almost three weeks during the summer of 1999, Oneida radio station WMCR canceled its daily call-in show, "Open Line" due to remarks made in poor taste on land-claims issues. The show resumed September 17, "with a vow by management to maintain civility." (Seely) At one point in the radio free-for-all, Susan Galbraith, former DeRuyter [New York] town supervisor who often speaks on behalf of UCE, called the Oneida government "parasitic." Later she recanted that comment, revising her opinion of the Oneida government to "shakedown artists and schoolyard bullies." (Seely)
In a quieter moment, Galbraith later told a newspaper reporter: "There has been a lot of damage done to hearts over the past few years. There's a great deal of anger and estrangement among folks who used to be congenial with each other." (Seely) Rather than face protests in Canastota, the Oneidas canceled their annual cultural fair during the summer of 1999. Friendships have soured. Some Oneidas avoid shops or restaurants where they feel unwelcome. "You can tell they don't want us there," clan mother Marilyn John said. "But you get used to it." (Seely)
The Donald Trump Connection
Opponents of Iroquois land claims and casino development also have expressed themselves through the New York state legislature, where attempts to subject tribal-state gaming compacts to county and legislative approval were stalled after intense lobbying on both sides. This proposal arose largely in opposition to federal approval of a casino proposed (with participation by the St. Regis Mohawks) in southern New York's Sullivan County, in the Catskills. The St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council signed a contract with casino developer Park Place Entertainment, with the intention of building a major gaming resort. The legislative measure arose suddenly, quickly passing the state Senate. It was poised for a positive vote in the Assembly, when a Sullivan County legislator asked the state Democratic leadership to put it on hold.
During the lobbying campaign, an advertising campaign accused the St. Regis Mohawks (at Akwesasne) of drug smuggling, money laundering, trafficking in illegal immigrants and violence. The advertising was published in several newspapers. The advertising campaign was conducted under the aegis of the New York Institute for Law and Society. The text of the advertising campaign read, in part: "Are these [St. Regis Mohawks] the kind of neighbors we want? The St. Regis Mohawk record of criminal activity is well documented." (Kibbe)
Many Akwesasne Mohawks complained that while illegal activity -- much of it associated with cross-border smuggling -- does take place there, implying that all Akwesasne Mohawks are involved is something of a racial slur.
According to Indian Country Today, the institute's advertising was "clearly informed by the racist attitudes prevailing in the area. The Institute admitted that its extremely objectionable ads were bankrolled by non-Indian casino interests. . . . The transparent setup by casino mogul Donald Trump, who sees a competitive threat to his Atlantic City, N.J., casinos, makes sense. It is in his interest to limit tribal gaming in states surrounding his enterprises." ("Trying to Kill")
Jim Adams, a reporter for Indian Country Today, traced some of the advertising to an organizer for Trump's brief presidential campaign.
Multicultural Faces in the Anti-Sovereignty Movement
The Citizens Equal Rights Alliance emphasizes the extra-warm welcome which will be extended to Native Americans who share CERA's loathing of reservation governments and federal policy. CERA's home pages brim with quotes from the likes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, and the Nez Perce Chief Joseph the Younger. (CERF/CERA Welcome Page)
All Citizens Equal's materials often include non-discrimination statements and disclaimers. ACE's bylaws proclaim that it does not tolerate racism in any form. Newsletters and other publications are full of civil-rights jargon. On its web page, ACE says it "is dedicated to the civil rights and equal protection" under the Constitution. It goes on to proclaim, "Persons of Native heritage should not be subject to law based on racial heritage." (Alliance 7:4) By this, ACE seems to be endorsing the late-nineteenth century assimilative visions of Helen Hunt Jackson and Richard Henry Pratt.
Exhibit A in CERA's definition of itself as a multicultural organization is Roland Morris, a resident of the Flathead Indian Reservation and a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, who was elected to CERA's national governing board during June, 1999. In August, Morris also became chairman of ACE, based in Ronan, Montana.
Morris spoke for CERA and ACE hearings convened in Seattle during 1998 by Senator Slade Gorton to publicize his legislative efforts (subsequently defeated) to strip Native governments of their sovereign immunity, a power they share with other governmental bodies. In his testimony, Morris characterized CERA and ACE as "grassroots, multi-racial groups dedicated to the promotion of equal rights for all citizens within Indian Country." (Morris)
Morris told Gorton's hearing that: "Basic human rights other Americans take for granted, that allow people to live in dignity with their neighbors, are not guaranteed on Indian reservations under the present version of `sovereignty.'" Secondly, said Morris, "Tribes are dependent on Federal government help. Through this dependency, many tribal governments have become corrupt with unchecked power and money." (Morris)
Morris called Senator Gorton's bill, The American Indian Equal Justice Act, "wonderful news for anyone, either tribal or non-tribal. By providing federal district courts jurisdiction over civil-rights actions brought, under the Indian Civil Rights Act, tribal governments will be held accountable for their actions. This bill will not hurt tribal members, it will only hurt corrupt tribal government." (Morris)
Repeal of sovereign immunity would open reservation governments to a flood of debilitating lawsuits from anti-sovereignty advocates, who are licking their legal chops at the prospect of suing reservation governments into insolvency.
The Montana Human Rights Network has compiled a thirty-year history of anti-sovereignty organizing in that state, written by Ken Toole and Christine Kaufmann. This report found that "loose affiliation between anti-Indian groups and the religious right is also evident, primarily in the electoral arena [and] State Legislature." Despite their disavowal of racism, anti-sovereignty organizers "often stumble into the overt white supremacist movement." (Seldon)
Toole calls anti-sovereignty efforts in Montana inherently racist: "The basis of their disagreement strikes at the core of the concept of sovereignty. And it is here we find the answer to the question of whether the anti-Indian movement is racist. This movement, taken at face value, is a systematic effort to deny legally established rights to a group of people who are identified on the basis of their shared culture, history, religion, and tradition. It is racist by definition." (Are They Racists?)
If you want your racism raw, the Web page to visit is Stormfront.org. No quotes from Martin Luther King or Chief Joseph here -- just paeans to George Armstrong Custer as oppressed white man, and a philosophy which takes pride in no-regrets conquest. The message at Stormfront.org is simple: "We" are the superior race. We kicked your ass and took your continent. Tough shit.
Stormfront.org is the place to go for interviews with David Duke, an on-line version of Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf, and the latest in White Pride chic, including a bewildering variety of swastikas and Celtic-cross pendants, T-Shirts, and flags. Don't forget the hot-selling Stars and Bars, the Confederate Battle Flag, which is one of the American neo-Nazis' favorite icons. Visit the graphics library and download your own swastikas, iron crosses, and SS insignae.
Before you dismiss all this as someone's idea of a joke in extremely bad taste, check the hit-meter on the Stormfront homepage, which said (on July 13, 2000) that I was visitor number 2,980,185 since March 27, 1995. This high-tech Web page tells me that I am "visitor number 792 today." It's 9:05 a.m. Central Daylight Time. The page also offers itself in Spanish and German.
This is no joke. This is "White Pride -- World-wide: The White Nationalist Resource Page," maintained by Don Black, "a 6-foot-3-inch man with the helmet of gently graying hair." (Abel) Black's personal Internet page shows the Internet White Pride webmaster pecking away at his personal computer in West Palm Beach, Florida, backed by a large Confederate flag. (Black)
Stormfront.org's resident sage is "Professor" Revilo P. Oliver, who is described on the Web page as "one of America's greatest patriots." Nearly two hundred of Oliver's commentaries have been reproduced at Stormfront.org. All of them, like the rest of the site, is accessible through Stormfront.org's own internal search engine. In these hundreds of thousands of words, Oliver has a few choice thoughts on Native Americans, although most of his tirades are directed against African-Americans (if you're searching, try "niggers"), Jews, Latinos, Asians, homosexuals (see: "queers"), and just about anyone else without a very high quantum of Nordic (search: "Aryan") blood.
Here is Oliver's take on Native American character: "The aborigines could be brave and exhibit an almost heroic superiority to pain and hardship, and that encouraged sentimentalists to forget that they were also cowardly and treacherous, filthy and squalid, innately cruel and savage, and incapable of the discipline that makes civilization possible." (Oliver, 1991)
Oliver endorses "the right of a superior people to seize the country of an inferior people and exterminate them."
A superior race has a moral right, perhaps even a moral imperative, to displace an inferior race in desirable territory. Aryans were obviously greatly superior to Indians and therefore had a natural right to take North American for themselves. I do not say that our race's superiority to the Indians was shown by our greater intelligence and our unique culture, for that would be only a tautology. Our superiority was conclusively demonstrated by the fact that we subjugated the Indians and conquered the country that was ours until we discarded it. (Oliver, 1991)
Oliver sneers at suggestions that Native American confederacies, notably the Iroquois, may have shaped democracy: "How far our imbecility has gone may be seen from a recent instance in the state of New York, where the gang of racketeers who call themselves "educators" are ramming into the minds of their child victims the lie that the American Constitution was imitated from a confederation formed by savages." (Oliver, 1991) He is referring to the curriculum guide Haudenosaunee: Past, Present, Future, which was part of the New York State Department of Education "Curriculum of Inclusion."
In another commentary, Oliver refers to George Armstrong Custer's "efficient defeat of the Cheyenne at Washita in 1868" as "a brilliant victory." "`Liberal' pests who yelp about Custer's `massacre' of the savages . . . are beneath contempt," he writes. (Oliver, 1990).
Black, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, maintains one of the better-known of several hundred "hate speech" sites on the Internet. The Wiesenthal Center by 1998 was spending 80 percent of its resources tracking online hate. (Koppel)
The German government has tried (and failed) to block Stormfront.org at the border. Much of the site's content is illegal under German law, but protected by the first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights.
Black makes the most of his first-amendment rights, riding the airwaves as well as Web links. At one point in 1998, Black appeared on "Nightline" with Ted Koppel. When Black tried to enlist Thomas Jefferson in his cause as a supporter of free expression, Koppel leaned into the camera and replied: "If you'll forgive me, most of us won't have trouble distinguishing between you and Thomas Jefferson." (Koppel)
Black began his career as a white nationalist by handing out White Power literature while a student at Athens High School (near Huntsville, Alabama). In college, as a political science major at the University of Alabama, Black joined the ROTC, but was expelled for racism. Later, Black graduated to leading local rallies of the Ku Klux Klan. Black joined the KKK in 1975, the year after David Duke took over the group. Black then moved to Birmingham as the KKK's Alabama organizer. Black's career in the Klan culminated when he became grand wizard, after Duke stepped aside.
Black resigned from the KKK in 1987. "I concluded the Klan could never be a viable political movement again," he said. "It had a reputation for random and senseless violence which it could never overcome. There were several events around [at] that time that reinforced that opinion." Black, who was divorced, moved to West Palm Beach, Florida the same year and married Duke's former wife. (Faulk)
Black was among 59 individuals and 32 organizations profiled in the Anti-Defamation League's report The Major Vehicles and Voices on America's Far Right Fringe -- dubbed "a sort of who's who of such hate groups." The league also has issued another report which focuses on Black and Stormfront.org. "He [Black] was really the first white supremacist on the Internet," said Rick Eaton, senior researcher with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. (Faulk)
Black, Don. Personal Home Page.
[ http://www.stormfront.org/dblack/ ]
Black, Don. Personal Home Page.
[ http://www.stormfront.org/dblack/ ]
Minnesota: Zero-for-three and on a Roll
Speaking on behalf of non-Indian sports fishermen in Minnesota as the Mille Lacs treaty case was being readied for appeal, former Minnesota Vikings football coach Bud Grant wrote to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: "We are behind at half-time, but the appeals process, and hence the game, isn't over." (When is a Treaty)
Two years later, the game was over, with Grant's team having been sent to the showers not only in district court, but by a regional appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court as well. Like many another coach who has lost three straight, Grant and his colleagues at Proper Economic Resource Management (PERM) are now looking for a new game plan. The new game, for PERM and many like-minded anti-sovereignty advocates, is Congress. (See sidebar)
PERM's "game," a campaign called "Save Minnesota," was waged against the fishing. hunting, and gathering rights of several Anisinabe (a.k.a. Chippewa or Ojibway) bands in Minnesota who retained these rights under a treaty signed in 1837. The treaty gave the Mille Lacs bands rights to hunt and fish on 13 million acres ceded to the United States. The State of Minnesota's lawyers contended that an order President Zachary Taylor signed thirteen years later took those rights away and ordered the Mille Lacs bands removed from the previously ceded lands.
The Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa sued the state in 1990, challenging Minnesota's authority to impose hunting and fishing regulations on its members. The Mille Lacs bands claimed that the state government was infringing on their treaty-guaranteed rights to fish, hunt, and gather on 13 million acres of east-central Minnesota which was ceded to the United States by a treaty signed in 1837. The federal government and seven other Chippewa bands in Minnesota and Wisconsin joined the lawsuit.
A federal trial judge ruled in 1994 that the package of rights guaranteed by the Chippewas' 1837 treaty with the United States continues to exist. A district court judge upheld the Mille Lacs' treaty rights in 1997. The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed; The appeal court's three-judge panel unanimously ruled in favor of the band, and upheld all previous rulings in the dispute. In March, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Minnesota vs. Mille Lacs Band (97-1337), that the Native bands retain their rights and that neither an 1850 presidential order nor Minnesota's statehood in 1858 stripped the Mille Lacs bands of the rights guaranteed by the treaty, as the state had contended.
The Minnesota case was similar, in some ways, to earlier treaty-based decisions in Washington State (Boldt) and in Wisconsin (Voight), both of which spurred anti-sovereignty organizing by non-Indian fishing and hunting interests which maintained the treaties gave Native peoples access to fish-and-game resources not shared by the general non-Indian population. In each case, treaties stipulated that while Native peoples gave up large areas of land, they retained rights to harvest food.
"After an examination of the historical record, we conclude that the Chippewa retain the ... rights guaranteed to them under the 1837 treaty," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the Supreme Court. O'Connor wrote that Taylor's order requiring the Chippewas' removal from the land was not authorized by federal law, and that other provisions in Taylor's order revoking the hunting and fishing rights could not stand separately. (Mille Lac)
Mark Rotz, PERM's chairman, wrote in the April 1996 issue of PERM's newsletter, "It will take a long time to change Federal Indian Policy . . . . (Federal Indian Policy) [T]he very fact that we have an `Indian policy' is racist and divisive for our country." PERM's spin doctors worked to downplay an image of them popularized by columnist Nick Coleman of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, who (on February 10, 1997) characterized PERM members as "Bud-Heads, Yahoos, and Bony-headed Walleye Worshippers" (Aamot)
PERM describes itself as being "dedicated to balanced solutions to natural resource management issues. "Balance," in this case, is defined this way: "PERM believes that allowing special privileges, for any group, to our public natural resources is unconstitutional. Allowing a non-public entity, in which we the public have no voice, management authority and control over publicly owned fish and game is not sound conservation policy." (Welcome Page) At its height, Rotz boasted that PERM, based in Elk River, Minnesota, had gathered 15,000 members under its anti-treaty rights banner.
The content of the PERM newsletter often reflects PERM members conviction that they are being ripped off. In PERM's January 1997 newsletter, for example, a cartoon appeared which depicted a Native man driving a truck emblazoned with the company title "Native Son Fish Co." The truck is overflowing with fish. A non-Native man walking toward the vehicle, carrying his stringer of six fish, says to the man, "My limit is six -- yours is six hundred! How did you work that?" To which the man yells, "You racist!" (Aamot)
After the Supreme Court ruling, Rotz said that PERM members must acknowledge the decision "and respect the rights of our Chippewa neighbors." He said, however, that PERM members will have a "seat at the table to fight to keep tribal harvest levels to a minimum, as issues of allocation were left unsettled by the District Court. . . . [A] battle has been lost, but the war is not over." (Rotz)
PERM is also a member of the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance, the national anti-sovereignty coalition. Howard Hanson, an important figure in CERA, hails from Minnesota and is closely allied with anti-sovereignty activities there. After the Supreme Court ruling in the Mille Lacs case, Hanson said he was sure that "all PERM supporters were as devastated as I was by the [ruling]." However, said Hanson, "There are still plenty of battles to be fought, especially with regard to our BIA and failed federal Indian policies. PERM is the only organization educating and protecting the citizens of our state from these corrupt and lawless agendas. . . . Let's start by demanding that our elected officials abide by their oaths of office and abide by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. . . . This battle is over, but the war for equal rights and the resources continues." (Hanson) Translation: See you in the halls of Congress, where PERM and its allies will be arguing that "abiding by the Constitution" means doing away with "special rights" guaranteed by treaties.
Anti-sovereignty, "Wise Use," and the Alliance for America
Tracing the anti-sovereignty movement through the Internet, one finds many cross-references to alliances with the Wise Use movement, an alliance of groups which focuses on natural-resource development and property-rights issues from an anti-environmental perspective. The Web pages of CERA also cross-reference regularly to Web links with the Alliance for America, self-described as "a national coalition of over 650 local, regional and national groups . . . founded to coordinate and advance the anti-regulatory, anti-environmental agenda of the `wise use' movement . . . to disseminate `wise use' information and generate opposition to environmental laws." (Clearinghouse)
CERA's national Chairman Howard Hanson has been saluted as "prominent in Alliance for America activities." The Alliance for America organizes an annual "Fly In For Freedom" rally in Washington, D.C., a five-day event during which wise-use activists converge on the national capital to network with each other and lobby members of Congress. (Alliance 7:1)
A March 1997 report, HONOR (Honor Our Neighbors Origins and Rights), a Wisconsin-based organization which monitors the anti-Indian movement, described links between CERA and several states' county associations working to do away with tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, and the federal role in Native American life. What's more, CERA was an active player in the 1994 Republican agenda to whittle away federal power over states. "For CERA's part," writes one commentator, "this would make it easier to eliminate tribal sovereignty, state by state." (Aamot)
A web site maintained by STAND UP!, in Eastern Washington, provides its readers a brief tour of connections between the anti-sovereignty movements, Wise Use, and other organizations: "The `Wise Use,' `Property Rights,' and organized anti-Native movements converge most strongly in Washington State. UPOW, formed in 1989, was formerly known as the Steelhead and Salmon Protective Association and Wildlife Network (S/SPAWN), which the Environmental Working Group called `an anti-Indian organization disguised as a fishermen's group.' UPOW is a coalition of groups and individuals, some of whom have been actively involved in organized anti-sovereignty and anti-tribal activities for years. The group headed the legal and political fight against tribal shell-fishing rights, along with their co-counsel, the Defenders of Property Rights. (Stand Up!)
The Stand-Up Committee opposes the Yakama Nation's attempt to form an electric utility and the possibility that the Yakamas may assume control of two Columbia River hydroelectric dams. Stand Up also supports the termination resolution of the Washington Republicans, and advocates its inclusion in the platforms of all political parties. Elaine Willman, who has helped organize the Stand-Up Committee, believes that Native nations should have the status of non-profit organizations, such as the Elks, Eagles, and Boy Scouts. (Barenti)
Intensifying pressure from anti-sovereignty advocates has forced many Native peoples into a familiar defensive posture: organizing to protect land and rights guaranteed by treaties. "Whether he knows it or not, Senator Gorton has done the tribes a favor," says Nisqually leader Billy Frank, Jr., a veteran of fishing-rights disputes in Washington State. "He brought us together and underscored the need for Congress to get to know us better." (Egan)
October 2002: The following was sent to the author by some of the people involved in this article requesting it be included to present their point of view.
The Morris family was deeply offended by charges that they were racist. They engaged an attorney, and sought an apology from the Montana Human Rights Network. According to Jon Metropoulos, of Helene, Montana, attorney for Roland and Lisa Morris [email@example.com], Toole's report
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Bruce E. Johansen is author of Shapers of the Great Debate on Native Americans -- Land, Spirit, and Power (Greenwood Press).