Indian Sovereignty Has Outlived Its Usefulness-Grassroot Perspective – Jan. 26, 2006

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”’GRIH Comment: The following gives an indication of some of what Hawaii can expect if the Akaka bill passes. This article is the first in a series. (dn)”’

A Sept. 1, 2005, ”’Associated Press”’ article included this statement: “[My] people have lived through natural and human-created disasters, and now with a stroke of a pen the future of a people is at risk.”


No, this isn’t about political leaders and Hurricane Katrina. It is Pueblo of Tesuque governor Mark Mitchell’s description of a U.S. Forest Service decision to permit a new chairlift in a ski area that commenced operations 57 years ago. Mitchell’s tribal government has sued to have the Forest Service decision on the proposed Ski Santa Fe lift reversed.

The issue is “sacred sites,” without access to which Mitchell claims his tribe’s culture and way of life would fade. Never mind that Ski Santa Fe operators permit access on the mountain to anyone, anywhere, except for skier safety closures. And never mind that Mitchell’s tribe has apparently been able to adjust its culture and way of life to operating a decidedly nontraditional casino, not miles away up in the mountains but right on the pueblo grounds.

Why do Indians have any standing whatsoever to deny on religious grounds others’ use of public lands when public practice of religion by the rest of us is thoroughly circumscribed? (Answer: according to a 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a similar case, they don’t.)

Even if there were an answer in the general case, I am deeply skeptical of Mitchell’s claim. I have enjoyed Ski Santa Fe since its first, rustic year of operation and can find no one who has ever seen an Indian anywhere in the ski area vicinity seeking spiritual nourishment other than what we all enjoy from recreation there.

Going further into politically incorrect inquiry, consider the Pueblo of Jemez and gambling. Jemez, whose reservation is poorly located for a casino, is attempting to move Indian gambling off the rez and onto a site about 290 miles south, near El Paso and Las Cruces.

The pueblo’s money man is Jerry Peters, a non-Indian Santa Fe businessman. If Peters wants to be in the gambling business in a gambling state, why should he need an Indian partner? Conversely, why should the Indians’ gambling near-monopoly now leapfrog into non-reservation lands in the state? And why should Indians have a monopoly on most gambling anyway?

State and local governments are short about $10 million a year in taxes that should, but aren’t, being collected from motor fuel sales on Indian reservations. Tobacco tax loss from Indian reservation sales may be even higher.

Not all the questions applicable to this unsatisfactory tiered-citizenship arrangement put Indians under the hot light. Federal Judge Royce Lamberth has held two secretaries of interior and one treasury secretary in contempt of court because they haven’t come up quickly enough with accounting for possibly billions of dollars in mineral royalties thought to be owed to Indians but dropped between the cracks by the U.S. government.

Add that to the overwhelming list of evidence that the Indians’ status as wards of the federal government, but “sovereign” as against the states, is not in anyone’s best interests.

There wouldn’t be space in 10 columns for a detailed examination of all the mischief created by the bizarre and antiquated citizenship status of Indians in the United States. Yet, believe it or not, Congress has under serious consideration legislation to create a similar caste problem in Hawaii.

That’s just flat backward. This is a time for making rational what it means to be American, not playing footsie with those who seek national weakness through divisive schemes leading straight toward Balkanization.

There is no time better than the present to commence an earnest discussion as to how we achieve equal standing among all American citizens, none superior, none inferior, and all celebrated as individuals.

”’Dendahl is retired from business where he held chief executive positions in high tech, banking and real estate development. He was chairman of the Republican Party of New Mexico for more than eight years. His regular columns are syndicated in New Mexico. He appears on a weekly public affairs program produced by the University of New Mexico’s PBS station, KNME-TV.”’



Daily Policy Digest


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Congress, which can’t seem to touch health care without making America sick, could redeem itself with the passage of a bill (HR 2355) that would allow U.S. residents to purchase health insurance in any state, says Deroy Murdock, a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.

Passage of the Health Care Choice Act, sponsored by Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Jim DeMint of (R-S.C.), would provide a simple and cost-free cure, rather than an expensive complication, to the issue of the uninsured, says Murdock.

Shadegg-DeMint would let insurers licensed in one state sell to individuals in the other 49.

As such, Congress would use its constitutionally enumerated powers to liberate interstate commerce and transform 50 separate, closed medical coverage markets into one open, national health-insurance market.

The proposal applies to state-regulated health plans, roughly 55 percent of the insured marketplace and purchased primarily by small businesses and individuals, according to America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade association for the health insurance industry.
The other 45 percent of the insurance market — health plans purchased by large employers and labor unions, among others — would not be affected (nor would government health programs like Medicaid and Medicare).

According to Murdock, location is important in the purchase of health insurance because similar policies can have large price differences in different states. Opponents of the bill argue that letting consumers shop for health insurance would lead to the purchase of inexpensive plans from unscrupulous insurers. However, explains Murdock, consumers could avoid questionable plans in clueless jurisdictions by patronizing reputable, sensibly supervised providers.

So, what’s the cost? Nothing, says Murdock, because this proposal spends no tax dollars.

Source: Deroy Murdock, “Health coverage chaos,” Washington Times, January 23, 2006.

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