A terrorist attack could strike anywhere in America at any time. No one and no place is immune. This discussion must begin with two guiding principles: The first principle is that all cultures, and most certainly American Indian culture, are to be respected and cherished within the United States of America. The second principle is that there is a clear and distinct separation between ethnic culture and governing systems. Government is not culture. Culture is not government.
One other important issue is worthy of ongoing acknowledgement. Individual American Indians have, and continue to provide, sacrifice and service to the United States military, in order to keep America safe, and our military is the better and stronger for this service. This has been the factual history from the American Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in Iraq.
Again, this is a discussion of governing systems only; not culture.
Surfacing and deterring terrorist activity requires full cooperation and collaboration of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in one, seamless continuum. Interconnectivity, coordination and collaboration are prevailing themes determined to best ensure safety of America’s homeland.
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 (HSA) specifically includes the involvement of tribal governments, along with federal, state, county and municipal governments and other supportive law enforcement, intelligence and emergency response agencies. The HSA passed by Congress in November 2002 was a massive reorganization of the federal government that created a cabinet-level department, the Department of Homeland Security, out of all or parts of at least twenty-two federal agencies.
In February 2003, Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) was one of nine senators who voted against the Homeland Security Act of 2002. In a summary of remarks at a February 2003 Winter Conference of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), published in an American Indian news service, Senator Inouye “urged tribal leaders to capitalize on the war on terrorism in order to press their claims for tribal sovereignty.”
On September 11, 2001, the very day of the national tragedy, the NCAI was meeting in Washington D.C. to promulgate a Tribal Sovereignty Protection Initiative, that evolved into the “Tribal Governance and Economic Act of 2002.” This Act was foundational to Senate Bill 578, submitted by Senator Inouye in 2003, and entitled “The Tribal Government Amendment to the Homeland Security Act of 2002.” The content of this legislation, had it passed, would have significantly balkanized the United States by creating literally hundreds of separate, sovereign, “Tribal Homelands,” apart from America’s national homeland.
Currently, the existing HSA of 2002 funnels Homeland Security appropriations out to the fifty states, which then distribute funds to “local governments,” including Indian tribes. This was not satisfactory to Senator Inouye, or the NCAI. Senate Bill 578 would have required, among other demands, the following:
*Separate tribal homelands, apart from state lands.
*Separate Homeland Security funding distributed directly from the federal government to Indian tribes.
*A tribal government’s ability to define the term “terrorist” as it applies to an individual “tribal homeland.” This would easily allow anyone who disagreed with a tribe to be identified as not just a “dissident,” but also perhaps as a “terrorist” to the tribe.
*Full “inherent sovereign authority of an Indian tribal government to enforce and adjudicate violations of applicable criminal, civil, and regulatory laws committed by any person on land under the jurisdiction of the Indian tribal government.”
The language of S. 578 would have removed the Constitutional rights and traditional, republic form of American government of several hundred thousand U.S. citizens. Citizens residing within reservation boundaries would be subject to tribal law enforcement, tribal courts, and the bill would have repealed powerful Supreme Court law that protects citizens from criminal or civil powers enacted upon them by a private tribal government. The Fourteenth Amendment providing equal protection, would have been rendered null and void.
Somehow, the NCAI and Senator Inouye believed this to be a good thing. Fortunately, citizens across the country raised a vigorous opposition to such a travesty, and S. 578 disappeared, but it is not gone. Attempts to insert language contained within S. 578 into newer bills, continues.
Many tribes in the Northwest have seriously pursued dam breaching. There is little acknowledgement that when a dam is breached, the end result does not restore a river to its original formation; rather, years of built up silt and debris behind a dam releases to unpredictable results that can cause injury or death to anything in its path. There are major dams throughout the Northwest and Western states that provide life-giving water and energy to America’s homes and economy.
Simultaneously, with substantial federal funding appropriations and new federal efforts to promote tribal government entry into energy production, energy distribution systems and energy management, current public energy systems are at risk of going into private tribal government management, with far less accountability to citizen users and ratepayers, limited federal and no state oversight. Water and energy resources are attractive targets for terrorists.
Just six months after September 11, 2001, a Washington State tribe boasted of “visiting dignitaries” who were “civic journalists” coming to tour the tribe’s radio station and newspaper. The tribal radio station is a tiny, leased building with modest provisions.
On Easter Sunday afternoon of 2002, a local informant knocked on my door, and handed me some papers. The informant said, “You need to see these. They were in a fax machine in a tribal office, and they worry me.”
The papers delivered were detailed announcements about some visiting dignitaries and civic journalists, including their names and countries. There were fourteen “civic journalists” from: Algeria, Morocco, Qatar, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. This was six months after September 11th, and these were countries not on the best of terms with the United States.
Had the journalists been from the Orient, the Americas or Europe, I would not have felt such a chill as I did then. Immediately after the visit, the local newspaper and Indian newspaper carried photographs and stories of these dignitaries, without identifying either their names or home countries.
What concerned me most is this: The tribe’s reservation, a very large and relatively isolated Indian reservation is bounded on the East by the Hanford Nuclear site; on the South, across the Columbia River is the Umatilla Chemical Weapons Storage Facility; on the West boundary of the reservation is an Army Training Center where troops are trained for Iraq and the War on Terrorism; and on the North, the reservation is bounded by several major dams in the Northwest, including Grand Coulee Dam.
These visitors were in a very isolated area of Washington State, at the wrong time, and from politically worrisome countries. Homeland security has held all new meaning to me, from this point on.
There are daily complexities that also factor in to Homeland Security when dealing with the existence of separate tribal governments of strong, separatist mentalities, and often less than affection for other cultures:
Many tribal governments issue separate vehicle license plates. How does this fold into national identification systems?
Many 911 emergency systems are literally “race-based.” How can it be helpful in an emergency to have to identify one’s race in order to request emergency assistance? Some of the 911 systems in Idaho, Montana and Nebraska, and likely many other states, create this obstacle.
Tribal Class III casinos are meg-bucks locations, substantially less accountable and audited than private sector casinos. Aren’t these casinos at the very least, a quite private, “attractive nuisance” inviting of money laundering, when operating on tribal lands, difficult to access by traditional law enforcement?
Tribal governments can enroll anyone they choose. Recently in Washington State, a scam was discovered wherein a tribe was offering to sell its enrollment to encourage business advantages not available to private sector. Just who might be interested in such an arrangement that would imply some legal status within the United States, by a purchased tribal enrollment?
Tribal governments insist upon identifying themselves and being treated as “separate nations.” In an individual state with dozens, sometimes over thirty, such separate nations, how does one state ensure the safety of all of its citizens when having to contend with such a balkanization within a single state?
A toxic mix of foreign (Maylasian, Chinese, South African) investors, the highest and lowest echelons of the American gambling industry, Saudi Arabian hospitality and service industries that provide resources to private tribal governments that partner with private tribal Class III casinos and hotels, are located on lands immune from state and local authority, in a business only minimally monitored by the National Indian Gaming Industry. This scenario invites trouble and potential money-laundering for terrorism.
It has not mattered that thousands of citizens and community groups across the country raised a huge cry to protect and preserve statewide public safety nets that include tribal government participation. We defeated S. 578 and continue the vigilance. Even so, now in 2005 a new, stealth version of the Tribal Government Amendment to the Homeland Security Act of 2002 bill exists. Senate Bill 477, submitted on March 1, 2005, is sponsored by Senator Byron Dorgan, and Senators Akaka and Inouye, with no other co-sponsors. Citizens have to be ever vigilant to preserve their right to never be governed by a private tribal government, absent their mutual consent.
”’An excerpt from “Going To Pieces…The Dismantling of The United States of America,” by Elaine D. Willman. To obtain this book, send an email to the author at mailto:email@example.com”’