Highlights Of The State Of The Indian Nation's Address - 'The Four Great Steps'
Joe Garcia, governor of Ohkay Owingeh, formerly known as San Juan Pueblo (N.M.) who was elected the new president of the National Congress of American Indians in November, 05 delivered the State of Indian Nation address at a luncheon held at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on Thursday, February 2nd.
In spite of the devastation many tribes faced from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Garcia stressed the state of Indian Nations today is strong. “Many of our native brothers and sisters are wearing the uniform of the U.S. Armed Forces fighting the War on Terror and our prayers are with them and so is our undying gratitude.
“The spiritual outlook of the Indian Nations is found in The Four Directions, each represented by a different color, a different animal and a different meaning. Everything in the world comes from the four directions and they must be in balance.
”The meaning of each direction varies among the tribes, but consider the tradition of the Pueblos. North is blue or green – conflict and tension. West is yellow - and the condition of man- in darkness and in danger - standing before the unknown. South is red – peace, resolution and rest. East is white - victory, sunrise, clarity. Man must turn to each of these four directions to solve a problem.
“Today I borrow from that tradition to describe the task before the Indian Nations. We face four areas of great challenge:
Number 1 – Public Safety.
Number 2 – Healthcare.
Number 3 – Education and the Economy.
Number 4 - The Trust Settlement.”
Under public safety, Garcia states the inability of border tribes to stem the flow of illegal aliens is a serious problem which results in an increased murder rate, higher rates of thefts, more rapes and beatings on reservations resulting with the fear of many of going outside their homes.
“This is unacceptable and a long-term solution must be implemented.” He stressed the tribes want to do more but lack the means. The government’s responsibility to us in this way is mandated and we are prepared to do the work but they must give us to the tools to do so.
Methamphetamine use is taking Indian lives, destroying families and devastating entire communities. The remedy to the problem not only begins with more resources but tailoring the system used to get these resources. “The answer is numbers. We need more officers to fight back. Overall, we must have increased manpower, realistic funding and improved communication.”
Number 2 is Healthcare. A typical Indian is 650% more likely to die from tuberculosis, 420% to die from diabetes, 280% to die from accidents and 52% more likely to die from pneumonia or the flu than the rest of the U.S. population’
“Healthcare expenditures for Indians are less than half of what American spends for federal prisoners. Because of this I call upon Congress and the President to uphold their historic and contractual obligation by reauthorizing the tribally proposed Indian Health Care Improvement Act during this session of Congress.”
Housing conditions for many Indians have reached the crisis point. Four in ten families are under-housed. “I’ve seen up to eighteen people stuffed into a three-bedroom house.”
More than one in eight Indians lack access to safe drinking water and more than one in twelve lack access to basic sanitation. “This is humiliating, degrading, and medically unconscionable. It is wrong and has to be brought to an end.”
Number 3, Education and the Economy – The skills and abilities our children learn in school is the foundation of the economy. Only half of Indian students graduate from high school. Only 13% of American Indians hold bachelors or graduate degrees which is less than half of the national average.
“The remedy, of course, is to fully fund this part of the No Child Left Behind Act, I am confident this culture-centered approach will work because I have seen it work.
“I call on Congress to appropriate the funds to complete, what is for Indian Country, a part of the No Child Left Behind Act that we cannot afford to miss.
“Though federal spending for Indians has lost ground compared with spending for the U.S. population at large, tribal self governance has proved that federal investment in these tribes pays off. Between 1990 and 2000, income rose by a third and the poverty rate declined by 7 percent.
“And a Harvard study shows that these gains occur with or without gaming. Tribal governments have worked hard to put laws in place that promote economic activity and Indian reservations are the next great opportunity for the American economy.”
“But this is only the beginning. Real per-capita income of Indians living on reservations is still less than half of the national average. Unemployment is still double what it is for the rest of the country. And the poorest counties in the United States are on tribal lands. So we still have yet to join the success of the rest of the nation.”
Number 4, The Trust Settlement – The litigation has dragged on for ten years and recent decisions indicate it will be delayed for many more years. The litigation is diverting money from other needs and creating an environment in the Administration that make it hard to move to other issues.
“The solution is straightforward: Let’s settle Cobell fairly and quickly. Then lets move on ahead. We want Congress to deal with this in good faith and then allow us all to put it behind us. Let’s move on.”
Garcia concluded, “As Indians, our lives are defined by our history and our rich cultures. . . Our fates are bound together. This is where we belong. Just as the Four Directions show a way to live, these Four Great steps show a way to grow. I look forward to seeing this progress for the benefit of us all.”
THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
Opinion: American Indians and the Abramoff Scandal
Submitted by Chris StearnsYou Don't Know Jack
Tex G. Hall
Friday, January 27, 2006
I decided to write this column because, before this whole Abramoff affair goes any further, America needs to hear from American Indians themselves.
There are three points that I want to the country to hear: First, we condemn the corruption associated with Abramoff; second, we support wholeheartedly the need for lobbying reform; and third, and most important, America needs to understand that this scandal is deflecting attention from an even more important scandal -- the poverty on Indian reservations.
If the American people could get Congress to focus on the third-world health care, crumbling schools, washed-out roads, diabetes, suicide and domestic violence rates that plague Indian reservations -- with the same intensity that they are bringing to lobbying reform -- then maybe millions of American Indians who live far away from Washington, D.C., could go to bed thinking that the federal government actually works.
Now that I think about it, as long as the Justice Department is investigating what happened to all of Abramoff's money, maybe they could investigate what happened to all the treaty promises that have been broken. Why is it, for instance, that despite the promise of doctors and hospitals in exchange for our land, the government, according to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, spends more than twice as much on average for prisoner health care than for Indian health care?
Let me get back to my first point. Everyone knows that bribing public officials is wrong. Unfortunately, it seems to be ingrained in political culture that, to gain access to elected officials, you have to agree to play by Washington's rules. Maybe Ralph Reed said it best: "In public policy," he wrote, "it matters less who has the best arguments and more who gets heard -- and by whom."
Enter Jack Abramoff. Along with his friends and associates, he targeted a handful -- six, to be exact -- of Indian tribes to finance his empire on the Potomac. What, exactly, happened? As far as I can tell, the Abramoff crew took advantage of the Indian tribes' goodwill and bankrolls to the tune of $82 million in order to pay for their own mansions, exotic trips and think tanks -- you get the picture. Which is: A few Indian tribes get scammed, a bunch of lobbyists and congressmen and staff get greedy (and later nailed), some promises get made and a casino gets shut down, and then Congress starts falling over itself to enact lobbying reform. Meanwhile, nearly all federal Indian health care, education, housing, water, energy, heating and roads programs are getting cut.
Let me be the first to say: We were cheated. Maybe if Indian tribes were remotely benefiting from Abramoff's schemes, then those beating their chests about the taint of tribal casino money might have a leg to stand on. The fundamental mistake they are making, however, is that Indian tribes are somehow running around waving fistfuls of cash in the air. Sure, there are some wealthy tribes out there. But only 20 percent of Indian casinos are doing really well, according to Indian Country Today; the rest are only marginally profitable. The reality, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, is that Native Americans still live in poverty at a rate more than twice the national average. We have the same economic disparity problems that we had before Abramoff, and I bet we are going to have the same problems after Abramoff.
Meanwhile, what exactly is happening to the message of tribal leaders and advocates fighting day-to-day to improve our living conditions on the reservations? That message is getting lost. Which brings me to my second point -- Congress really does need to reform. Indian Country supports lobbying reform as much as anyone. Think about it -- Indians are the ones who were cheated in this deal and are now being blamed. It doesn't take a degree in rocket science (or anthropology) to see that the system is not working in our favor.
Fortunately, this can change. I am glad that such public officials as Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., believe that government can do better and are willing to fight the system to make it so. Let's end lavish junkets, football skybox seats and five-star dinners. Most important, let's make this a fair game. Why shouldn't Ryan Wilson -- who, as president of the National Indian Education Association, is fighting for decent Indian school meals and the same basic textbooks that other American children get -- have the same access to congressional leadership as the head of a Fortune 500 corporation?
But let's also be clear on one thing: Neither Indian tribes nor casinos are the problem. If you listened to our critics, you'd think that corruption in Washington was a phenomenon that began in 1988, after Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Indian tribes are governments, just like states, counties and cities. Therefore, any lobbying reform must deal with tribes in the same manner as it treats other governments.
Remember, we didn't make up these rules. Of course, we are more than happy to join in and help improve the system. In return, all we ask is that we be treated fairly, and that the United States live up to the promises it made to us.
At the end of the day, reform to us really means safe schools, access to doctors, living to age 80, roads, heating and electricity, as well as opportunity for our children. If by now you don't know that, then you don't know Jack.
Tex G. Hall, a.k.a. Red Tipped Arrow, is chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara Nation in North Dakota and past president of the National Congress of American Indians, which he led from 2001-2005.
Chris Stearns (Navajo)
Political Counsel to Tex G. Hall
Chairman, The Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara Nation
Of Counsel, Hobbs Straus Dean & Walker LLP
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