Category Archives: Native Americans

Laxalt Wading in the Waters

Sometimes it’s  a good idea to read all the way to the end of an article.  A point illustrated in this discussion of Adam Laxalt’s latest:

He participated in a conference call with EPA administrator Scott Pruitt on July 13, as part of a briefing over the Waters of the United States rule. Laxalt in 2015 entered Nevada into a lawsuit with 12 other states challenging the Obama administration’s expansion of the rule, which covers federally protected waters under the Clean Water Act.

Previously (2015)  the states won a TRO against the EPA’s expansion of the waters subject to the Clean Water Act:

“The States here have demonstrated that they will face irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction,” he said. “Once the Rule takes effect, the States will lose their sovereignty over intrastate waters that will then be subject to the scope of the Clean Water Act.”

“The Rule allows EPA regulation of waters that do not bear any effect on the ‘chemical, physical, and biological integrity’ of any navigable-in-fact water,” Erickson said.

As of 2017, Laxalt joined litigation involving groundwater rights, and the priority of states to exercise control, in one instance at the expense of Native American water rights:

A Native American tribe sued in federal court claiming that, as part of its federal reservation of land, it has a priority right to use groundwater in the valley. Relying on Supreme Court cases involving implied reservations of surface water rights, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a priority right to use groundwater under federal reserved land is included as an implied right with the reservation, and that that right necessarily pre-empts state water law.

[…] The brief, in support of writs filed by two Southern California water agencies, asks the Supreme Court to clarify whether the federal reserved water right doctrine extends to groundwater and, if so, under what circumstances, so as to guide all states on managing groundwater resources.

And, there’s another sticky legal wicket, as illustrated by the case of property owners in Pahrump who feel they will be harmed by a State Engineer’s office decision about drilling on private property:

“It is factually impossible for petitioner to be irreparably harmed if a stay of Order #1293 is not issued as it does not own any land or otherwise have an interest that is affected by the order,” Laxalt’s opposition filing stated. “Petitioner does not have any legal interest in the basin.”

The argument of legal standing revolves around a technicality, with Laxalt noting that as a limited liability company that did not exist until after Order #1293 was issued, Pahrump Fair Water LLC is not affected by the order. The filing read, “…a limited liability company is an entity distinct from its managers and members.”

Laxalt’s opposition contains various other arguments as well, including his belief that a stay of Order #1293 would harm the public. In addition to declarations regarding potential negative impacts to water supply, Laxalt predicted a rash of drilling if a stay were granted.

Laxalt may be on more solid ground in this case, but calling the input from resident members of the plaintiffs “impertinent,’ ‘immaterial’ and ‘irrelevant’ probably isn’t the best way to make friends, influence people, and get individuals to the table to negotiate a settlement.

Granted, water rights may not be a crucial element in the outcome of Nevada’s 2018 elections, but Laxalt’s relationship with the ethically challenged EPA director could raise eyebrows and questions in this political climate.

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Filed under ecology, Native Americans, Nevada politics, Politics

The Trump Budget Steps Toward The End Of The Trail

The Trump Administration assault on America’s own citizens is replicating, in its own way, past assaults on Native Americans.

“Members from tribes in Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, Idaho and Alaska called on Congress to restore funding to tribes during budget negotiations. The cuts ignore the treaty responsibilities to federally recognized tribes, they said, and put a stranglehold on programs that have been chronically underfunded.” [PBS]

And the administrative response?  The Office of Budget and Management didn’t respond to the e-mail asking for comments.  Wondering why the tribes are worried?

“The proposed budget would slash $64 million in federal Native American funding for education, $21 million for law enforcement and safety, $27 million for natural resources management programs run by tribes plus $23 million from human services, which includes the Indian Child Welfare Act, said Carina Miller, a councilwoman with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, in Oregon.

It would also eliminate funding for tribal work on climate change and cut block grant programs that provide housing assistance for Native Americans, she added.”

Cutting $64 million for funding Native American schools is an illustration of why the old “backlog” attacks are usually phony.  The current funding for school construction and maintenance is already “backlogged” to an alarming extent: (pdf)

Despite some improvement and temporary relief, BIE schools lack adequate funding for construction to address documented needs. At the end of 2015, BIE school buildings had almost $400 million in deferred maintenance, with 55 elementary and secondary schools (30 percent of all BIE schools) in poor condition. The total backlog, including both schools and employee housing, was about $600 million.

So, there’s a backlog of $600 million which will be solved by adding another $64 million cut?   Now, a word about law enforcement cuts:

“Take public safety and justice. Although Trump has fashioned himself as being tough on crime, particularly when it comes to immigration and terrorism, he’s seeking a huge cut of $30 million to programs that help tribes address high rates of crime in their communities.Tribal Justice Support, for example, would lose a whopping $10 million, according to the budget justification. That’s a direct rebuke to tribes in California and Alaska, whose justice systems were hobbled by Congress during the termination era, when the federal government was eager to shed its trust and treaty responsibilities.'”

These cuts are underpinned by a philosophical statement that is reminiscent of an excuse in years past to justify cutting services and programs for Native American citizens.  “Self Determination,” and “Termination.”  Here’s a statement that contains some of these elements:

“President Trump promised the American people he would cut wasteful spending and make the government work for the taxpayer again, and that’s exactly what this budget does,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.  “Working carefully with the President, we identified areas where we could reduce spending and also areas for investment, such as addressing the maintenance backlog in our National Parks and increasing domestic energy production on federal lands.  The budget also allows the Department to return to the traditional principles of multiple-use management to include both responsible natural resource development and conservation of special places.  Being from the West, I’ve seen how years of bloated bureaucracy and D.C.-centric policies hurt our rural communities.  The President’s budget saves taxpayers by focusing program spending, shrinking bureaucracy, and empowering the front lines.”

Points to notice:  (1)  The “statement opens with the presumption that government spending is by default wasteful, and therefore cuts are always justifiable.  Not so fast, when there are backlogs in such basic services as education and law enforcement we’re not talking about bloated budget line items; we’re discussing elements that are already underfunded.  (2) Notice that Native Americans were certainly not a priority in Interior Department discussions about the administrative budget — national park maintenance and “domestic energy policy” were front and center.  Let’s guess the latter being placed in greater proximity to center stage than the former.

(3) There’s a clue to this placement in the phrase “multiple use management”  as in — let energy development take precedence over Native American interests in how tribal lands are utilized.  There’s nothing particularly “traditional” about multiple use management, except perhaps for admirers of the administration’s capacity to gaslight and rewrite history for its own propaganda purposes.

(4) Emphasizing location doesn’t necessarily mean a person has any extraordinary insight or expertise.  It is perfectly possible for a non-Native person to live practically next door to a colony or reservation and have little contact and even less expertise in Native American issues.  So, if the expression “being from the West,” is supposed to indicate such insight and expertise, it’s not quite enough for the resumé.  Another point to notice is (5) That the budget comments refer to rural communities, not necessarily Native American reservations.

(6) Since Native Americans are referenced as part of the whole rural category, we need to focus on the last statement:

 I’ve seen how years of bloated bureaucracy and D.C.-centric policies hurt our rural communities.  The President’s budget saves taxpayers by focusing program spending, shrinking bureaucracy, and empowering the front lines.”

D.C. -centric is code for that old monster under the bed for conservatives, that the federal government is the ‘enemy’ of local or in this case tribal governments. No evidence is offered that tribal governments have been hurt by DC decisions, other than the decisions to under-fund tribal law enforcement and educational programs.

Program spending is code for cutting spending — presumably for the benefit of millionaires and billionaires who are expecting a magnificent batch of tax cuts in exchange for cutting money previously allocated for tribal law enforcement, housing, and education programs.

Shrink bureaucracy is another bit of code for cutting government staffing such that programs cannot be implemented.  This hoary old line is hauled out every time a Republican wants to cut social, safety net, or any other program for minority communities.

However, it’s the “empowering the front lines” suggestion that ought to set off the alarm bells.  This particular element goes back to the bad old days of the Dawes Act.  Under the terms of this horrific piece of legislation passed by Congress in 1887 “allowed” tribes to assign individual parcels of tribal lands into private ownership (an older version of ’empowering the front lines) with devastating results:

“The Dawes Act reduced Native American landholdings from 138 million acres in 1887 to 78 million in 1900 and continued the trend of white settlement on previously Native American-held land. In addition, the law created federally funded boarding schools designed to assimilate Native American children into white society. Family and cultural ties were practically destroyed by the now-notorious boarding schools, in which children were punished for speaking their native language or performing native rituals.”

This situation wasn’t rectified until 1934. It was the ultimate in ’empowering the front lines’ and it didn’t end well.  In more modern parlance, the Trump budget makes it quite clear that if tribal government want to improve their schools, or even perform basic maintenance on them, or support their law enforcement efforts they are “empowered” to do so by the federal government — quick translation: You’re On Your Own — the policy appears to harken back to the Republican staple, the Termination movement that prevailed from 1953 to 1968; almost but not quite.  There is no movement to terminate tribal governments, but we need to be aware that a tribal government which cannot deliver important local services because of budget restraints is operating with at least one hand, if not both, tied behind the back.

At the risk of indulging in some speculation at this point, let’s consider the possibility that as funding for tribal housing, law enforcement, health, and educational services are further reduced there is a greater likelihood the tribes will have to sell off tribal assets, or the rights to tribal assets, to sustain their own programs.  Read this as: The greater the cuts to local tribal programs the more likely the tribe is to sell off mineral rights and to allow the development of everything from mines to pipelines on tribal lands.   There doesn’t seem to be much that’s very subtle about this. Combine “empowering front lines” with “multiple use management” and the whole picture isn’t too difficult to imagine.

It’s a rather bleak picture, another step toward the End of The Trail.

 

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Filed under Native Americans, Nevada, Politics

Trump’s BIA Budget Massacre

1.6% of Nevada’s population is Native American, not a major demographic group when measured against the majority white (75%) and Hispanic populations (26.5%), or even the African American population (9.6%). [Census] However, that doesn’t mean this group doesn’t have some significant housing, health, education, and law enforcement needs on behalf of the Washoe, Paiute, Shoshone, and Utes (among others) who live in this State.  Worse still, the proposed Trump Budget stands to make their situation definitely more difficult.

“Overall, Trump’s proposal increases defense spending significantly and cuts deeply most programs for the poor. Trump’s budget slashes federal Indian country appropriations by more than 10 percent. For example, at $2.488 billion, Trump’s request for the U.S. Department of Interior’s Indian Affairs budget alone is a $300 million cut from Obama’s FY 2016 budget, which was the last full year appropriation (we have since operated on continuing resolutions). Trump’s proposal also cuts more than $50 million for the Indian country housing programs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and zeroes out $8 million from the BIA budget for housing. For the Indian Health Service, Trump’s budget eliminates roughly $150 million.”  [IndC]

Consider for a moment the effects of a $300 million cut for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Drilling down, let’s look at the situation in Native American Housing, from which the administration seeks to cut some $58 million.  According to a HUD report issued in January 2017, housing needs are particularly acute in tribal areas in three major categories: System deficiencies (plumbing/electrical), physical condition, and overcrowding.

“Physical housing problems have declined enough to be negligible for the United States, on average—incidences typically of 1 to 2 percent—but not for American Indians and Alaska Natives in tribal areas. For example, 2013 American Housing Survey data show the U.S. average share of households with plumbing deficiencies was 1 percent, but this study’s household survey shows the share for AIAN populations in tribal areas was 6 percent; the share with heating deficiencies was 2 percent for the United States but 12 percent for AIANs in tribal areas; the share that was overcrowded was 2 percent for the United States but 16 percent for AIANs in tribal areas (exhibit ES.2). The only problems in which the incidences were nearly the same were electrical deficiencies (about 1 percent for both) and cost burden (36 percent for the United States versus 38 percent in tribal areas).” [HJ pdf] (emphasis added)

In summary, physical housing issues? 1-2% for most of the US population; but 16% for Native Americans.  “Heating deficiencies?” 2% for most of the US population; but 12% for Native Americans.  These numbers don’t appear to indicate a rationale for a $58 million slash in available funding.

Indeed, if we look at efforts of Native Americans to keep the furnace running in the winter is on the administration chopping block:

“The budget would eliminate programs like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income households pay to heat or cool their homes. In 2016, 150 tribal groups and more than 43,000 Native households received LIHEAP funds.”

There’s nothing like a cold house in the fall and winter to create an environment for disease, but again, Native Americans are on the losing end of the administration budget.

“The chronically underfunded Indian Health Service (IHS) offers care through a network of hospitals, clinics and health stations managed by IHS, tribes or tribal organizations, and urban Indian health programs. If the proposed budget passes, Medicaid, the national and state program that covers low-income individuals, could see its budget cut by $610 billion over the next 10 years. Mark Trahant, a journalist, academic and member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes who has covered NA/AN affairs for 30 years, is concerned.

“In Indian Country, more than half of all Indian kids who go through Indian Health Service have their insurance through Medicaid,” he said. “Thirteen percent of Medicaid is Indian care.” [VOA]

Medicaid is not just an issue in terms of the national health care insurance proposals, but obviously has profound implications for health care services for Native Americans.   The proposed budget is not merely “austere,” but in relation to Native Americans it is downright cruel.

“The cutbacks to tribal programs are cutting into the bone and fail to recognize very real and critically important needs,” Fawn Sharp, the president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, said Tuesday at a tribal conference in Portland, Oregon. “It is so severe that it’s absolutely illogical and unreasonable.”

Logic and reason have only a very tenuous connection to the administration’s budget proposals for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and associated programs which benefit Native Americans.

There’s something particularly egregious about a budget which presumes that programs for those in need, as the case of many Native Americans, should be slashed right into the bone so that tax cuts for the top 2% of income earners in the United States can be implemented. [CNNmoney]

This is the Trickle Down Hoax on steroids.  By some magical manipulation of the tax code in favor of the wealthiest among us, “jobs” are supposed to be created in remote reservation areas; exactly those regions not favored with infrastructure, transportation, education, and resources favorable to investment.   The TDH advocates argue that the economic development problems are the result of tribal land ownership patterns, a lack of natural resource exploitation, and government “interference.”

It’s hard for a white person to understand the relationship of Native Americans to land.  To the average white person land is real estate, it can be bought, sold, transferred, and allocated at will.  It’s just another ‘thing.”  There’s no single definitive Native American perspective about land, but this comment is at least illustrative:

“Us women have been taught that this Mother Earth has taken care of us, so we have to be like her essence. She never abandoned us, she is here, she nurtures us every day, she protects us, she feeds us, she clothes us.” [ICMN]

Tribal lands can be allocated for the use of tribal members, but it’s still tribal land.  It still has “essence;” it is nurturing, protective, and sustaining.  Perhaps as close as a white person can come to understanding this concept is to imagine one is living in a church, or some sanctified property.  The property may be inhabited by specific people for specific reasons, but it is still a communal sanctified place.  Further, while the majority in our society see wealth as a measure of personal worth, this isn’t a value prized among Native Americans who frown on that which is self-serving and avaricious.  There are enterprise activities on tribal lands, but again, these are tied to the benefit perceived to accrue to the tribe, and not individuals.

The glories of the Profit Motive as maintained by the TDH advocates and other “free-marketeers” are as foreign to many Native Americans as the idea that a child should come into the world while the family conducts its ceremonies would be to them.

For all intents and purposes, the administration’s proposed budget flies in the face of basic Native American values.  While purporting to encourage ‘individual initiative’ it guts those social programs that sustain the lives of the individuals who have difficulty amassing “wealth” in the white sense of the term.  While supposing that the budget encourages ‘economic development,’ it slashes funding for communal needs (housing, health services, education, nutrition) which underpin development of any kind.  As for ‘natural resource exploitation:

It’s highly unlikely one of the TDH advocates would fully appreciate the following:

“We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees.” – Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation

Nor would they understand the concept expressed in this quotation, which they might even dismiss with scorn:

“Once I was in Victoria, and I saw a very large house. They told me it was a bank and that the white men place their money there to be taken care of, and that by and by they got it back with interest. We are Indians and we have no such bank; but when we have plenty of money or blankets, we give them away to other chiefs and people, and by and by they return them with interest, and our hearts feel good. Our way of giving is our bank.”  – Chief Maquinna, Nootka

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Filed under Health Care, Native Americans, Politics, privatization, public health, Rural Nevada

Truck Attack on Reno Protesters; Trump Attack on Everyone Else

newspapers 1 ## The lead story on the Reno Gazette Journal website concerns two chubby white guys stalking and then driving a truck through a group of DAPL protesters in downtown Reno.  The two chubbies stopped a short distance away to “give their version of events” to police; fortunately there were no critical injuries sustained by members of the protest group.

## After the Citizens United debacle of a decision is anyone surprised that outside spending is a major feature of the Nevada senate seat race?  RGJ has more details.

## Perhaps it’s a measure of how “safe” the Nevada Congressional District 2 seat has become for Republicans that Mark Amodei is still backing Donald Trump:

“In the past couple of days every negative adjective in the English language has been used to describe Mr. Trump’s comments toward women,” Amodei said in the letter. “Frankly, the harsh criticism and outrage are, in my view, appropriate and deserved. Americans, in the final analysis, expect perfection, leadership, and someone they can be proud of as the leader of their country on the world political stage. At this point, sadly, neither nominee can lay claim to any of those traits.” [RGJ]

Amodei is now the only major Republican in Nevada supporting the Trump candidacy.  Maybe it’s appropriate to ask at this point – precisely WHAT has Secretary Clinton done that puts her even remotely close to the egregious behavior and insult driven campaign waged by the “deplorable” Mr. Trump?

The Benghazi Flap was a GOP manufactured pseudo-scandal upon which the GOP wasted two years and about $7 million dollars to come up with NOTHING.  The “emails” are another exercise in sound and fury signifying nothing.  If Representative Amodei is constructing his false equivalence predicated on these two bits of bombast, it’s a thin reed to grasp for the long run.

For his part, Mr. Trump announces himself unshackled from the Republican Party of which Rep. Amodei is a proud member, and launched one of his almost-patented Tweet Storms overnight.  Thus Representative Amodei places himself in support of the Donald J. Trump Insult-O-Rama:

Trump ChecklistThis isn’t exactly a list upon which to build a credible candidacy? For anyone. 

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Filed under Amodei, Native Americans, Nevada politics, Politics, Republicans, sexism, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Amodei’s Land Grab

Amodei Privatization Land “Congressman Mark Amodei will give an update to the Elko City Council Tuesday on possible issues that might impact the City and Elko County, according to Assistant City Manager Scott Wilkinson.

Amodei’s topics have not been outlined for the City. However, past subjects have included lands issues and sage grouse.” [EDFP]

If he’s set on discussing land issues, then we might guess he’s off to thread another precarious choice between the Bundyite Bunch and the BLM.  Back in late April, 2014 Representative Amodei was praising the BLM for backing off the confrontation with the Rampant Bundys, recalling his words:

“That is a leadership-type thing where you say, ‘We are getting our butts kicked and we are taking our team off the field and getting out of the stadium,'” Amodei said, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. “It’s not a win, but probably the right thing to do under the circumstances.” [LVSun]

Two years later Amodei’s tone changed, he didn’t support the Bundys and he definitely didn’t want to be labeled anti-park:

“Amodei, however, said the (1) report attempts to use the Bundy sideshow to score political points rather than take a serious look at important issues such as (2) land access, ecosystem health and local economies.

“They don’t speak for me on anything to do with public lands,” Amodei said of Bundy and his acolytes. (3) “I want it to be about the resources, not about some guy who is or isn’t paying his grazing fees.” [RGJ] (numbering added)

Parse with us now. (1) When faced with a report bearing uncomfortable factual inclusions, such as Amodei’s opposition to funding and maintaining national parks and monuments, deflect the issue to the Bundy Bunch – who want no federal involvement in public land administration (grazing, forests, parks, monuments, …) and announce one’s inclination to talk about substantive land issues.  The 2nd District Representative had an opportunity to vote on the SHARE Act, a privatization proposal in Congress this year, but was absent for the vote.

“Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) sponsored H.R. 2406, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act of 2015, which contains harmful measures undermining the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Wilderness Act, and other bedrock environmental laws. The bill includes language that could allow the use of motorized vehicles, road construction, and other forms of development within protected wilderness areas, and it blocks input from public stakeholders in National Wildlife Refuge management decisions. This legislation also includes provisions that would weaken the EPA’s ability to regulate toxic lead in ammunition, fishing equipment. Additionally, this bill would undermine international commitments to combat ivory trafficking, thwarts our ability to effectively manage marine resources, and cuts the public out of management decisions impacting hundreds of millions of acres of public lands. On February 26, the House approved H.R. 2406 by a vote of 242-161 (House roll call vote 101). NO IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE.” [LCV] (emphasis added)

(2) Representative Amodei has the big three listed — “land access, ecosystem health, and local economies.” However, in terms of access notice the underlining in the SHARE bill – when management decisions are to be made the PUBLIC is cut out of the process. This raises the question that if we are speaking of public access to public lands and the public is cut out of the management decision process, then whose access are we talking about?  Since the GOP sponsored bill passed the GOP controlled Congress, then it’s reasonable to assume the GOP doesn’t want input from PUBLIC organizations concerning management decisions – leaving the field (literally?) to the mining, logging, privatization, and other commercial interests?

And, if rivers are dredged or fouled, forests are cut down, wildlife is endangered, hunters are denied access, fishing enthusiasts are turned away, then it must be for the sake of the “local economies?” Unfortunately, Representative Amodei’s comments as reported offer no explication of his priorities.

(3) But then, there’s Representative Amodei’s infamous quote: “…we do understand their frustration with increasingly heavy handed federal agencies that continue to violate the rights of hardworking American farmers and ranchers.” [RGJ] Are heavily armed men taking over a federal wildlife refuge and threatening violence just “frustrated?”  So, perhaps it would be logical to infer that Amodei’s heart is with the “frustrated” members of those “local economies” which seek to exploit public resources?

Amodei is quick to cite his support for the National Park Service budget, and his support for the hazardous fuel mitigation efforts on public lands, but part of what got him on the Anti-Park list is explained: “Amodei landed on the list for sponsoring legislation that would give the state control of 7.2 million of the approximately 58 million acres of federally controlled land in Nevada..[RGJ]

It doesn’t take too much imagination to see that cash strapped states (like Nevada) might not eventually want to capitalize on the exploitation of public lands in the state, quite possibly at the expense of small ranching concerns, outdoor sports participants, and wildlife in particular.

A sneak peak might be on display with his bill to place BLM lands in trust with Nevada tribes:

“The House Natural Resources Committee approved the Nevada Native Nations Land Act, H.R. 2733, which Amodei introduced to provide more opportunities for economic development and protection of natural resources in the regions.

“(Wednesday’s) vote puts us one step closer to placing Nevada public lands back into local control — rather than in the hands of Washington bureaucrats,” Amodei said. “My bill carefully balances the unique needs of our Nevada tribal nations with those of local ranchers, land owners and businesses.” [RiponAdv] (emphasis added)

There he goes again, getting land out from under the “Washington Bureaucrats.”  The only salvation in this legislation is that Native Americans, who generally have a better standard of stewardship than the Koch Brothers,  are the ones holding the lands in trust.  We might also safely conclude that this “one step” is the first of many in which Representative Amodei seeks to place Nevada public lands under local control.

From local it’s one more step to private.

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Filed under Amodei, Interior Department, koch brothers, National Parks, Native Americans, Nevada politics, public lands, Reservations, Rural Nevada

VAWA: Jumping off the Racial Cliff?

Native American womanLet me hear that part about the Congressional Republicans NOT being tainted with the stain of racism?  Let me hear the tautological complaint once again that accusing members of the Republican Party of racism is racism.  And, then let me hear why members of the Republican Caucus in the Congress of the United States of America aren’t taking action to extend the protections of the Violence Against Women Act to Native American women? What situation would prevent the Senate version of the bill from a quick passage?

Did you read this on the NRDC Blog?

“Today on Indian reservations, the local governments don’t have the ability to respond to domestic violence crimes in their community if the perpetrator isn’t Native. Without this ability, non-Native offenders often go unpunished on tribal land because the only ones who can bring them to justice are federal prosecutors who are often hundreds of miles away and lack local resources to properly investigate and prosecute these crimes. The result, according to a recent National Institute of Justice (NIJ)-funded report, the offenders become emboldened, and the violence escalates to rape and in some cases homicide. On some Indian reservations, the homicide rate of Native women is 10 times the national average.”  (emphasis in original)

This isn’t rocket science, it certainly isn’t the stuff of which neurology lectures are composed.  Local law enforcement officers don’t have jurisdiction on tribal lands and federal officers are (1) physically located some considerable distance from the localities, and (2) understaffed and under-resourced to enforce the law on tribal lands.   The situation was discussed here, in some detail.

We’ve also heard from Nevada 2nd District Congressman Mark Amodei:

“I heard from tribes in my district, including the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Tribal Council, the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe, and the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe about this issue and I can assure them that this bill would not only provide increased funding for federal law enforcement and prosecutors to pursue these cases, it would also empower Indian victims to seek protective orders in U.S. District Courts against abusers.”  [Amodei] (emphasis added) [Link]

So increased funding for federal law enforcement is the “answer” to the jurisdictional issue?  No.  And, seeking a protective order from the U.S. District Court in Reno is going to be convenient for assault victims in Duck Valley? No. Again.

So, why would Representatives like Mark Amodei (R-NV2) and Eric Cantor (R-VA) resist giving tribal courts jurisdiction over crimes committed against Native American women on tribal lands?

Cantor and other Republicans continue to stall the VAWA Reauthorization because of baseless constitutional concerns for those accused of abusing Native women.”  [NRDC] And, who are those accused of abusing Native women?  Who would be in this category, and not be subject to the jurisdiction of tribal courts?  Non-tribal people.

Of Representative Cantor, “…his staff has said they’re willing to try to come up with other solutions to responding to violence against women on tribal lands, as long as the solution doesn’t give tribes jurisdiction over the matter. But proponents of the Senate bill see the limited jurisdictional change as the only realistic way to address the problem.” (emphasis added) [HuffPo] What’s the problem?  The only logical conclusion a sentient person can reach is that Representative Cantor he doesn’t want to see white men hauled into tribal courts for assaulting Native American women.   Heaven forefend non-whites might have jurisdiction over white men?

Thus far, Representative Cantor and Representative Amodei seem to be on the same page — VAWA authorization would be just fine and dandy — BUT we can’t have non-white people facing justice in tribal courts.   And, the question does, indeed, drill right down to “protecting the rights” of non-Native rapists, as explained by Rep. Tom Cole (Chickasaw) R-OK:

“There are 535 members of Congress, and 534 of them could go on the Sioux Reservation, commit a crime, and not be subjected to local jurisdiction,” Cole added. “If I did it, though, I would be, because I’m an Indian. We trust tribes to have jurisdiction over Native Americans. As long as you give people the right to appeal, they ought to be subject to tribal jurisdiction.… Most American communities have local jurisdiction; Native Americans do not. It’s not right. I will vote with the Democrats on this if an amendment or recommit is offered. I hope we can get it done this year.” [Indian Country] (emphasis added)

OK, if “we” trust Native Americans to dispense justice to other Native Americans without comment or complaint, then why are the tribal courts — which must follow the same federal regulations regarding the rights of defendants as any other Section III courts — not to be trusted to dispense justice to non-Native people, most often men.

The answers are provided by a paper authored by Bethany Berger of Wayne State University and the University of Connecticut: (pdf)

“Federal Indian Law scholars agree that U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding tribal jurisdiction over non-members are not dictated by judicial precedent. I believe that these decisions are based instead on two assumptions:
First, the justices assume that nonmembers will be placed at a disadvantage in tribal courts, which they portray as unfamiliar, biased, and ultimately inferior places. The justices, for example, repeatedly refer to “intrusions on personal liberties” if non-members are subject to tribal jurisdiction, the fact that nonmembers do not vote in tribal elections, that tribes are not fully bound by the U.S. Constitution, and that tribal law is “unfamiliar” and will be “unusually difficult for an outsider to sort out.”
Second, the justices assume that jurisdiction over outsiders has little to do with tribal self-government, because tribal self-government only concerns things that the justices think of as “uniquely tribal,” such as hunting and fishing and traditional practices untouched by time. Taxation, zoning, criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians are all outside what the justices imagine really matters to tribes. In Strate v. A-1 Contractors, for example, the Court held that a tribe did not have jurisdiction over lawsuit arising from an accident on a highway running through the reservation saying that it was not crucial to tribal self government for the tribe to exercise  jurisdiction over a “commonplace state highway accident claim.” Tribal government, somehow, does not involve the “commonplace” stuff that all governments do.”

The first argument is not supported by the actual results of the actions of tribal courts.   So, local justice of the peace courts, or municipal courts, are “competent” but tribal courts are assumed to be “inferior,” “unfamiliar,” or “biased?”  Now, what kind of thinking could automatically revert to those assumptions?  The second argument is equally absurd.

It’s acceptable for tribal courts to do Indiany-Things like take care of Mother Earth, or to protect their hunting and fishing rights — like Native Americans don’t hold construction jobs and exceed the speed limit on highways through tribal areas.  But, Heaven Forbid they’d be interested in things like zoning, contract fulfillment, and child custody?  In short, they are assumed competent to  take care of Mother Earth but not their earthly mothers.

The non-Native man who assaults, batters, rapes or abuses a Native woman is a batterer, an abuser, and/or a rapist.  Think that doesn’t put a Native woman in a place that’s confusing? Unfamiliar? Unpleasant?  Evidently, the constant conservative complaint that we don’t pay enough attention to Victim’s Rights, doesn’t apply to Native women?  What else could explain the devotion of Representatives Cantor and Amodei to the rights of the defendants?

What indeed?

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Filed under Amodei, Cantor, Native Americans, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Sunday Stroll: Ladies Day

Elections have consequences.  There could be significant consequences for the Medicaid program in Nevada depending on the outcome of the 2012 election.  Here are two, improved graphics from yesterday’s post illustrating who is served by the Nevada Medicaid program — and who will be impacted by proposals from the GOP (Ryan Budget) to transform Medicaid into a block grant program, and to cut funding by approximately one-third.

The question becomes — where will we cut? From the 58% of the program which serves children?  If we cut all funding from adults, that would save only 19% and we should remember that 150,200 of the people served are adult females, some of whom are pregnant receiving pre-natal care.

Speaking of women:  Planned Parenthood Federation of America informs us there were 133,246 uninsured women in Nevada as of 2008-2009.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) 66,623 are likely to qualify for Medicaid in 2014, and  55,963 are likely to qualify for premium credits in the health insurance exchanges.

Laying aside the Republican hyperbolic hysterical generalities about Socialism, Non-existent Death Panels, and Killing Grannies — the Affordable Care Act has some definite benefits for women, which ought to be considered before voting in favor of a candidate who wants to repeal it:

#1. Preventative and wellness visits to a physician — coverage must include screenings for breast and cervical cancer.  #2. Coverage for gestational diabetes screening. #3. HPV-DNA testing for high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing every three years, regardless of Pap smear results. Early screening, detection and treatment have been shown to help reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer. #4. STI counseling and HIV testing.  #5. Contraceptive and contraceptive counseling — and no the government isn’t paying for this, and employers aren’t paying for this — the insurance has to cover it.  #6. Breast feeding support, supplies, and education.  #7. Domestic violence screening and counseling services.  [Time]  And, by the way — health insurance corporations may no longer charge women more for an insurance policy just because they are — you know — female.

Women on the Reservation:  While the Republican controlled House of Representatives stews about expanding efforts to extend protection for Native American women under the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act, [The Hill] there’s still a major domestic violence problem on Reservations.   If one applied the GOP logic to the situation: “Suppose your sister was with you in Washington, DC, and her husband beat her up,” Moore says, “but because he was from Virginia, Washington couldn’t do anything about it.” [MJM]

There’s a little bit of help on the horizon from the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice.  Help for at least four tribes.

“Through this special initiative, OVW will support salary, travel and training costs of four tribal SAUSAs, who will work in collaboration with the U.S. Attorneys Offices in the Districts of Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.  Specifically, OVW will award cooperative agreements to four federally recognized tribes to select qualified applicants in cooperation with the U.S. Attorney Offices to serve as cross-designated prosecutors.  These prosecutors will maintain an active violence against women crimes caseload, in tribal and/or federal court, while also helping to promote higher quality investigations, improved training and better inter-governmental communication.”

The ladies on the following Reservations will be a bit safer — Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico,  Fort Belknap Tribe in Montana, Winnebago Tribe in Nebraska, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, in North Dakota and South Dakota. Or, the House Republican leadership could stop hiding behind technicalities and vacation days and pass the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Twenty Three Cents Worth:   Lily Ledbetter (video) spoke to the disparity of pay in too many American workplaces, 23 cents worth on average.  Let’s play with the calculator — the median expected salary for an entry level accountant in this country is $44,456 dollars per year.   [Salary.com] If a husband and wife were both entry level accountants, and the pay was equal, their combined earnings would be $88,912.   However, if her salary is only 77% of her husband’s she earns about $34,231.  Their combined earnings are reduced to $78,687.12.   Wonder what they could have done with $9,000?  Wonder what the local economy could have done if family earnings were what they should be?  Do the arithmetic.

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Filed under 2012 election, Economy, Health Care, health insurance, Medicaid, Native Americans, Nevada economy, nevada health, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights