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Native American Struggles in Reclaiming their Land
|This research opened my eyes to the continuous struggles which
Native Americans must fight just to get ownership of land they
were promised years ago. While there seems to be some hope for
the future in that some claims like those of Canada's Indian
population are being recognized and appreciated, many other
groups are still losing their land to this day. Historically,
Native Americans have had a much higher appreciation for the land
and what it can provide them. They attach a spiritual component
to their land and, as a result, approach the relinquishment or
sale of those lands with great apprehension.
This report indicates that local and national legislatures are
becoming less willing to afford Native Americans the protections
to which they've become accustomed. There is legislation pending
to overrule the trust acquisition component of the Department of
the Interior. This opportunity has done much to help Native
Americans secure land which their economic status would not
otherwise permit. The conservative political tide seems bent on
trying to, once and for all, destroy what little pride and
self-esteem remains within these communities.
Native Americans are still being taken advantage of to this
day. What little portion of land they've been permitted to
inhabit by the US government is being reacquired for use as toxic
waste sites. Scientists have even come forward to contend the
effects of living near this waste are not harmful. Americans must
ask themselves if these practices would be similarly condoned in
Native Americans are in dire need of a strong and powerful
voice. They need some influential groups to assist them with
their strategies to fend off whites who want to harm their
interests. Since Native American communities are synonymous with
poverty, they don't have the influence necessary to change these
problems on their own. The American people must come forward and
aid Native Americans in their quest for self-determination and
sovereignty. The time has come for us to stand up and say the
abuses must stop. The United States must acknowledge our past
treaties and let them manage their lives independent of harmful
white influences. We can't afford to allow this excellent
cultural resource to be continually raped of its land and
self-esteem while we stand by idly.
The following articles are included in this bibliography:
| Clinton, Bill, "President
Clinton's Executive Order on Indian Sacred Sites," White
House Press Release, May 24, 1996.
The President articulates his position that each executive
branch with responsibility toward federal lands management allow
Native Americans full access to these sites for religious
purposes and avoid altering the physical makeup of these
locations. He mandates that federal access to these lands be
restricted to achieve this objective. This executive order
demonstrates the liberal democratic viewpoint which is
continually trying to accommodate the needs of Native Americans
while not affording them unnecessary and extra benefits.
Editorial Board, "Native Rights Defined," The Toronto Star, December 14, 1997.
This editorial discussed the impact of a recent Canadian
Supreme Court ruling which held that Canada's Indians have an
ownership right over the land which they occupied prior to
colonization by the Europeans. The Court determined that based on
the Indians' prior presence and distinctive culture, they had
aboriginal title to the land. While these native groups are quite
pleased with these new developments, mining companies which
previously operated with reckless abandon now fear for their
livelihood since their access to the land will soon be
restricted. These native tribes now must make claims to these
ancestral lands which will undoubtedly be fought out in court.
The Indians are able to make these claims because they never
relinquished their title to the land when European colonization
began, and as a result, still have good title.
"Lieberman Introduces Bill to Limit Native American Annexation," Associated Press, October 28, 1997.
Senator Joseph Lieberman introduced a bill which would deny
some Indian tribes the right to acquire land in trust for
commercial or gaming purposes. This legislation would overrule
the current statute which enables the Secretary of the Interior
to place lands outside their reservation, within a trust for
tribes to use commercially. This legislation comes on the heels
of a 1995 appellate court case which held that power
unconstitutional. Mr. Lieberman's bill seeks to eliminate that
practice. He points to the Mashantucket Pequot tribe which has
made several petitions for this action despite having a reported
revenue of over $1 billion due to their extensive Connecticut
gambling casinos. Lieberman indicates that the time for a helping
hand is now gone since many tribes have become self-sufficient
and thus no longer need the government's assistance.
Jemison, G. Peter, "Sovereignty and Treaty Rights-- We Remember," 1995 WL 15273053, Akwesasne Notes, December 31, 1995.
This author reviews the history of Europeans and Native
Americans as it relates to their treaties which, despite being
agreed to by both parties, have rarely been fully enforced. He
focuses much of his discussion on the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794
which was made between several Iroquois nations and Europeans
residing in the state of New York. This accord gave these nations
aboriginal land rights as well as sovereignty to control their
own lands and destinies. In return, they recognized the
sovereignty of the United States government. While the treaty has
been frequently violated, the United States has never broken the
agreement. These land rights are of particular concern since the
US government has treated some of the land as a dumping ground
for toxic waste. These tribes are now recognizing the importance
of maintaining their rights to this land by forcing the
government to acknowledge their aboriginal title and allowing
them to independently maintain the land from this point
Johnson, Ralph W., "Indian Tribes and the Legal System," 72 Wash. L. Rev. 1021, October, 1997.
Mr. Johnson documents the extensive negative history the
involvement of white people in Native American affairs has
created for Indians. The article indicates that the more whites
have involved themselves in the lives of native Americans, the
worse their group situation has become. The author argues that
whites have imposed their own paradigm in the solutions which
they have mandated Native Americans use for their own
self-determination. Because Europeans and Native Americans see
the world so differently, they seem unable to pose effective
solutions for each other. As a result, he argues whites should
leave Native Americans to solve their own problems without the
mandated intervention of whites.
When the system has not had white intervention, Native
Americans have succeeded. He points to the tribal court system as
an example of programs which have flourished and offered them
additional pride because of its success. Despite efforts on the
part of whites to eliminate Indians from this country, they are
still surviving in many states. They have demonstrated a survival
instinct which is practically unparalleled in American
Editorial Board, "Ward Valley Land Transfer," Los Angeles Times, April 4, 1997.
Congress is trying to transfer a site known as Ward Valley
from the Federal Government to the state of California. They want
the land transferred to build a toxic waste dump on the site. The
author is concerned that this measure might pass and harm the
water supply since it is only 20 miles away from the Colorado
River. The author is also opposed because the Ward Valley site is
sacred land for Colorado River Indian tribes. Turning this land
into a waste site would undoubtedly harm the land which is the
home to several reservations including the Fort Mojave and
Chemehuevi. The author cites additional articles which indicate
there is little need for additional waste sites and thus question
the feasibility of building more which could decimate Indian
Inouye, Daniel, National American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, 1998
The Hawaiian senator has introduced his pending legislation
which prohibits the removal or excavation human remains from
Federal or tribal lands unless the Native American tribes have
consented to the activity. This act would overrule the current
practice which permits people to enter these areas with abandon.
The Act also would set up a monitoring agency which would
evaluate the inventory of the people who enter these sites to
ensure they comply with the Act's requirements. Violation of this
statute would subject the perpetrator to both criminal and civil
New York Assembly Bill 5850, State of New York, Senate Assembly, 1997-1998 Regular Sessions.
This state statute places additional restrictions on the sale of Native American land within the state of New York. Previously, Native Americans who owned their land were able to distribute it as they saw fit. Now the state of New York has enacted this law which says that any sale of Indian land must be approved by the state legislature. In addition, any outstanding claims concerning Native American land must be resolved through the sate legislature and all claims done without its express consent are invalid.
Poindexter, Mark D., "Dinosaurs and Indefinite Land Trusts: A Review of Individual American Indian Property Rights Amidst the Legacy of Allotment, 14 B.C. Third World L. J. 53, Winter, 1994.
This article documents the history of white involvement in
Native American affairs over the past few centuries. White
Americans wanted to make Native Americans assimilate into the
larger culture by making them a self-sufficient agrarian people.
This author blames the fate of the Native American upon
themselves since they did not keep their property when it was
allocated under the Allotment Act. He argues the aim of the
legislation had been to protect them form the losing their lands
but they voluntarily sold them to the highest bidder rather than
retain them for future growth. He contends that by attempting to
help Native Americans we are interfering in their attempt at
sovereignty and self-determination. He argues that the government
should distance itself from Native American land rights issues
and let them fight it out in the court system.
Roff, Jessica, "South Dakota v. United States Department of Interior: Another Broken Promise to the United States Indians," 49 Admin. L. Rev. 453, Spring, 1997.
This article discusses an appeals case which held the
Secretary of the Interior's power to hold lands in trust for
Native Americans an unconstitutional delegation of power. The
court overruled a 60 year-old statute, the Indian Reorganization
Act, which authorized Native American trust acquisition. The
author also indicated this is only the second time in history
where a statute has been invalidated as an unconstitutional grand
of power. There is a fierce debate over why this rarely-utilized
doctrine suddenly resurfaced to be used against Native American
interests. This decision could be the first brick in a
rapidly-forming wall of precedent which seeks to eliminate
time-honored privileges associated with Native Americans.
Walker, Cam, "Native Americans Resist Forced Relocation," Green Left Weekly, April, 1997.
The US government has begun an eviction process against the
Navajo from areas of New Mexico and Arizona. These Navajo reside
on top of a large supply of coal and uranium. If these tribes
don't move, mining companies will be unable to seize the profits
associated with these precious resources. Congress passed a
Relocation Act a few years ago but did not enforce it immediately
but all the Native Americans residing on the land who remained
automatically became trespassers. Some of the government
employees resigned rather than participate in forcing the people
Those people living there are forbidden to repair their homes and are denied basic services like running water. Now that the government wants to fully enforce the Act, the residents are being harassed by both mining company employees and government units. There is the potential that force will be used to evict these residents despite their valid claim to the land prior to the Act.
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