Truth Be Told

My upcoming book with Dr. Soong-Chan Rah titled "Unsettling Truths - The Ongoing Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery" is now available for pre-order from InterVarsity Press.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

virtual Native American state

The right to vote and have representation is a fundamental American right and in the early history of our country that right was based on land ownership. At one point, Native Americans resided on a majority of the land and accounted for a majority of the population. But that began to change soon after the first European immigrants arrived. Native Americans were quickly either exterminated or moved to the boarders of society and marginalized. And that is where most of us live today. You will find pockets of Native Americans all throughout the country. And if you look hard enough you will find reservations tucked away in the corners of many states. We account for around 1% of the population and are virtually non existent in the structures of power. We have been a ward of Congress and do not even have an embassy or a formal relationship with the US government. For years we were drafted and forced to fight in the wars of this country, but we did not even have the right to vote. Even after we were given the right to vote, our numbers were so small and we were so marginalized and separated that no unified voice could be heard. Reservations had been created but representation was not allowed.

I would like to propose that a new action be taken; one which I believe will level the playing field to an even greater extent. I propose that a virtual Native American state be created. This virtual state will function primarily as a means to give Native Americans a voice in the national structures of power that currently exist. Each voting age member of every state and federally recognized tribe will, for national elections and for the US Congress and Senate, be given the option of registering to vote and be represented in a virtual Native American state. Based on the number of registered voters an appropriate number of votes will be added to the Electoral College. Eventually, additional representatives will be added to the US House of Representatives and 2 members will be added to the Senate. I believe these institutional and constitutional corrections will allow the Native American population an equal voice within the structures of power and in the representation of our lands. No longer will Congress or the President be able to quietly cut funding from health care and social services, which were guaranteed in the treaties that were signed. No longer will Native American issues (many of which are unique from the rest of the country) be ignored by Presidential candidates. And no longer will Native Americans be forced to be a ward of congress and at the mercy of the state governments and the BIA. For we will be a part of the senate and the House of Representatives, and will have our own voice in the legislative agenda of this country and in the representation of our lands and our people.

Mark Charles
(Fort Defiance AZ)


Anonymous said...

I am with you, 110%!

Those forces that oppress us have so much invested in maintaining the status quo regarding the relationship between the U.S. government and those tribes that are federally recognized (those tribes that have state recognition are as equally under the gun in terms of their issues with those states that have so graciously granted them "recognition").

Melvin Martin
Oglala Lakota

Anonymous said...

It's a good thought with good intentions, but it cannot happen. why? The federal government still wants to eventually do away with the reservation system and are still waiting for that day. And this can happen soon when the Native American's blood quantum becomes miniscule (less than 1/8th percent), then tribal membership will begin to decline. Therefore there will be no reason to have a reservation when indian tribes are dimished to non existence.

Anonymous said...

Interesting idea that I would like to add to through teachings passed down from our elders. Just as Indigenous groups adapted to the environment, took what was needed and necessary, and diversified our diets through taking all that was beneficial from the environment, so to this can be translated into government. Work with other governments and organizations in the world to raise funds, look to strengthen our existing ceremonies that promote better habits for the community, ultimately working with people who help us and not who harms us. We don't need the US government as much as we need people and governments that want to help us.

Anonymous said...

The last past was from:
Adam Recvlohe

Anonymous said...

I guess this means the BIA would be abolished, along with all the money they presently send to tribes, and tribes would be organized as municipalities and adhere to the laws of the states they are in?
And they would pay for their own education, policing, highways(with whatever similar state help that towns or counties get). Right?

gaZelbe said...

Its a powerful idea, but I think its one that further erodes our identities within the context of the dominant European culture.

I would offer an alternative idea that we should send ambassadors to Washington and secure seats at the UN as the sovereign nations that we are, and always have been.

Are there practical complexities to my idea? Certainly, just as there are with yours, but further, deeper integration into a political entity that has only ever sought our extinction is counter-productive.

For myself, I have never wanted to be a part of the USA. My people were here before the USA and we will still be here when the USA is a distant memory.

Mark Anquoe

Anonymous said...

While I agree that your idea is ambitious and honors native people as sovereign people groups, I believe that the federal government would only agree to something like this if they would be freed from any further obligation to provide funding of any kind to any sovereign people group. As with all things governmental, when you take their money, they own you. Government programs have a way of enslaving people. The social problems found on many reservations are no different than those found in most inner cities. But if you were to tell most people in either case that the government dollars were going to stop and that they would be on their own, most would choose the current system over true sovereignty and equal representation. The other issue is this; who would the representatives be? As has been demonstrated in our local tribal governments, the system itself is corrupt and it corrupts the very people who are supposed to serve the people. All that being said, your best chance of geting anything passed, in full or in part, will be under a democratically controlled Congress and White House. We will have that shortly,
but be careful what you wish for because the ramifications are many.

Anonymous said...

I believe we are under perception management by the federal government et al etc. Alaska Natives never voted for "statehood", in fact we were excluded, threatened with a $500 fine and a year in jail--there were only a "few" of "their polling places" set up in Alaska also.
This 51st "state" plan sounds like everyone would be "loving their oppressor" in this situation. Our tribal operations/health care funds, from the Treasury Department are income/return of capital etc from our lands and resources, it's ours. I've been told that the IHS money comes out of the Indian account, so we are ALREADY PAYING for our own health care system, set up by the Feds and "their employees/military trainee doctors" who are direct recipients of OUR FINANCE RESOURCES! I would NOT VOTE TO BE A PART OF A SYSTEM THAT HAS LIED/STOLEN/RUINED FAMILIES/SOVEREIGN NATIONS. Voters are essentially "registering" for "their financial expenditures/bills". It's their mess, they need to live in it. I don't own it, in fact "League of Women Voters" in Alaska has sent me approx. 5 letters over the years of saying my vote was thrown out of voting on their matters!

PAID BY OUR ACCOUNT! Follow the money. Ask those "state senators" if what I'm noting is the truth!
Your social security account is used also, for paying judges, court clerks, bailiffs for our children "taken/stolen illicitly/foster care etc/in "state" custody" situations....
The social workers and their training in these colleges, where are they getting their "funding" for training "this degree program"? All rights expressly reserved.a non-treaty Su'naq Gramma of Alaska

Anonymous said...

I am not a Native American and I would fully support a 51st Native American State. It's about time you had real rights in this country. It's about time you were respected.

Unknown said...

I heard only part of NAC today, 1/14/09. A separate 'virtual' State?
Just get two + tribes to agree together.. big challenge.

Wife and I agree that it is not good to Indian marry white. Get the blood quantum low enough and we will no longer exist as a people.

dmarks said...

I must read "Newspaper Rock" too much, but it comes to mind that this proposal would generate hundreds of mocking newspaper editorial cartoons featuring tipis, casino jokes, totem poles/canoes/tomahawks, and cartoonish-looking Chief Wahoo braves.

Anonymous said...

This would not allow for self-determination nor would it allow for Native "representation." The United States is, first and foremost, a settler state. No Native self-determination is possible in this context, and further integrating Natives into the government merely seals the deal as far as the possession of all of North America (that is, stolen land) is concerned.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of having our collective voices heard, but agree that there may be better ways of going about it; certainly in the context of protecting our sovereign rights. The best way to accomplish this is to continue talking, debating and speaking out on issues not only affecting Indian country, but individuals as well. That blood quantum issue that some have mentioned - that is a whole new discussion.

Ty Jay Nez said...

This is a issue that is always being discussed among powerful leaders in our local communities. I find this as another way to lose one fundimental right we have, sovereignty.
This word can be interpet in many ways and label by many with their own meaning. I find this word to me, a right to decide for one poltical subdivision.
I am strongly opposed for a unified Native American State, this would give about 45% vote to the Cherokee, 40% to the Navajo Nation and 15% to the rest of the Native American population. We would eventually add a Governor, who would be a 1/32th Cheorkee, two Senators 1 4/4 Navajo, and a 1/8 Cherokee. Assumming 7 House of Representative. This plan is literally impossible. I think the only way would be to become indepdent. Forget about the BIA, and the US government aid, an be self suffient through economic growth, and prosperity. I am not saying secession, but merely a self determine nation, under Public Laws and Acts from Congress. As Native Americans we tend to twindle and let the big guys push us around. We need to step up and fight for what we believe in the Red, White, and Blue. The United States has change from the past, and now has a African American President. New Mexico has a Hispanic Governor. What we need is to be like them, inspirational, and have a strong commitment to all the people. Race, and Color no longer dominates our government, it should not as a matter of fact. This plan clealy lays out a seperation from our modern nation and puts a set back to our nation. I urge you to find another plan, as we are changing this nation one at a time.

Jason C. Stone said...

I was brainstorming today about what I call a "Virtual Indigenous State" or V.I.S. and I'm glad I found your post. I was also thinking about proposing a 51st state that would represent all tribe members from around the country who could elect their own leaders on the state and national levels.

There was one additional part to my vision that you may not have considered. It seems to me that improving the relationship between the US government and the Indigenous population will require some official recognition of Indigenous rights to share ownership of ALL of North American lands and a reasonable plan for them to profit from those lands in perpetuity. I propose that a small, fraction of a percent, property tax be collected on all land in the US and the revenue be delivered annually to a V.I.S that represents all US tribes. Even a very small tax should enable the V.I.S. to raise around as much annual tax revenue as a small U.S. state without adding up to much more than a few dollars a year per US citizen.

I only have a small amount of Native Heritage, but, as a young American the idea that there are still unresolved issues with how our government treats Natives and their resources is troubling to me. In time it may even lead to a loss of credibility for us on the world stage. I hope we can resolve this issue in a way that respects the rights and needs of the Native people so we can all be proud, willing participants in the special role that our land has to play in the global struggle to provide all people with freedom, rights and dignity.

J.B. Chandler said...

The 51st state is an ingenious way to take control of the system. Think how important it would be to have 2 more environmentally sensitive senators. Six more Representatives who won't be beholden to the American system.

Natives are scared of the quantum falling too low, but a 51st state on the reservations would push Natives back to the reservations, thus pushing up the quantum.

Finally, the sovereignty issue is a joke. If you are afraid to lose your gov't checks, then move to Alabama. If you want to keep wearing the emperor's invisible clothes, look in the mirror.

The 51st state is the best answer.

Unknown said...

I have a similar idea for the US as a whole for those who are alarmed about the direction the country is going. I am not native american but as a Christian I believe that what happened to native peoples is one of the great unconfessed and un-repented sins of our nation along with slavery and abortion. There are others. Perhaps I'll write a post about this. Anyway, I would invite you to "immigrate" to the Virtual States of America and start a group for discussion of native american issues.

Eventually I would like to see some new political parties established to challenge the current parties. Perhaps native americans could be part of a coalition of people who form a political party. Eventually it will happen using the internet. Why not here or over at Virtual States of America. We would welcome native americans. "Viritzens" need to be educated about native american issues. I'm certain there is a lot to learn.