This is a response to a survey on the Democratic National Committee website - follows:
In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing the Native American community today (Check up to three):
Upholding the government-to-government relationship between tribal governments and the federal government
Quality healthcare for reservation-based and urban Indians
Quality education for Native American students
Adequate funding for the Indian Health Service
Access to affordable housing
Ensuring the water rights of tribal governments
Protection of Native American sacred sites and appropriate access for ceremonial purposes
Basic infrastructure to further economic development on Indian lands
Small business assistance programs
Rebuild the trust relationship between federal and Native Americans by coming to a fair and equitable settlement of the mismanagement of tribal trust funds
Preserve and protect tribal lands while developing sustainable energy resources
I chose: Upholding the government-to-government relationship between tribal governments and the federal government; Basic infrastructure to further economic development on Indian lands; Preserve and protect tribal lands while developing sustainable energy resources
And here were my further comments (remember I am 1/16 Creek):
As the former Acting Chief Financial Officer for the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe of California, I can tell you it was very difficult to select only three of the above topics. Public Law 93-638 only goes so far in providing the basic compacts and contracts that continue to regulate Tribes relationships with the Federal government. Tribes are continuously under-funded on all fronts. Just a few years ago when the BIA did the road survey for the reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), the funding projected as needed for tribal lands was in the billions. The allocation to tribes was nowhere near that. It would take 50 years just to get to all the roads and bridges on that list for this one reauthorization, and by that time more roads and bridges would need to be built. This under funding, the paltry amounts spent on Health Care, the tremendously lousy HIP housing, and no money for Tribal justice to protect children from being taken from their parents are all systematic symptoms of neglect. Neglect of the government-to-government relationship and the responsibility of the United States government to uphold its promises. Should we be surprised? No, not really.
The Federal government has been trying to renege on treaties before the ink was even dry. The Termination Era should still be etched clearly in the minds of all Tribal members. For the lucky few Tilley Hardwick tribes of California, they had their rights and lands restored to them, but for the others, they are still awaiting federal recognition. That tribes have to be recognized as such by a neglectful untrustworthy government is sad.
All of the issues you listed are important. Without quality healthcare, how can a child grow strong? Without quality education, how will a child learn what they need to know to fight for their rights to protect sacred sites, to further economic development, to preserve and protect tribal lands? So many tribal youth are despondent because they don’t see a future for themselves. They feel they must leave the Res or Rancheria and abandon what’s there to make a new life with a future. A vast gap in knowledge is growing wider everyday as youth are lured away. The tribe I worked for, only one elder was left that could speak Wiyot fluently. Granted the Wiyot were basically massacred on Indian Island by the white people of Eureka, and the youth that did survive sought to protect themselves from further hostility by blending in or moving away. But fear, and a lack of basic protection nearly terminated the Wiyots. They are growing again, but it is only because of strong leadership and true self-determination. If not for strong leaders like Arla Ramsey, the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe would be dwindling rather than growing as they are now. She is an inspiration and knows the truth of life on the Res. What truth is that?
Truth: The government’s under-funding and lackadaisical support of Tribal programs only helps to breed despondency and alienation among tribal members isolated on rural reservations. Did your Res or Rancheria ever receive free government clothing? You know the blue jeans with the big white stripe down the leg so everyone you went to school with (at the white school in town) could see that you were living on government money? Ever embarrassed to bring non-Res or Rancheria residents home for a visit because HIP housing looked…well, basically like the ghetto?
What more can be done to make a once proud people ashamed of whom they are? What more could the government do to make youth abandon their tribes? As more and more youth leave the ‘service area’ and the blood quantum is diluted, what tribe will there be? Who will be left? And, once they are all finally humiliated into leaving the reservation and abandoning themselves, the government can simply…declare the tribe disbanded and terminate them.
Only with strong economic development and a reliable infrastructure, education, health care, and a self-determined tribal government elected by its members can the indigenous people of this land stand up and claim what is theirs.