#No DAPL Updates: Religious Communities Respond; A History of Pipeline Spills; Map of Rejected DAPL Route, and More

This blog offers a map of the current and rejected Dakota Access pipeline routes, and an article with a map of pipeline spills. It updates actions by Christian religious leaders who went to North Dakota to support the Standing Rock Nation in its opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Read on. Continue reading

1 in 2 Native Americans in MN are Jobless; This Day in History: The Code of Indian Offenses

According to a blog by the American Indian OIC, half of Native Americans living in Minnesota are jobless. According to the blog:

  • The median household income for American Indian families in the state of Minnesota is $32,000. (Incidentally, the established Federal Poverty Line is a household income of $24,250 for a family of four.)
  • The unemployment rate for the American Indian population of Minnesota is 10.8%- nearly three times that of Minnesota’s overall unemployment rate.
  • 40.8% of our population is considered to be “not in the labor force” – and therefore not tabulated in the employment data because they are jobless and are not currently looking for work.

For the full blog, click here.

This Day in History: The Code of Indian Offenses

On December 2, 1882, Interior Secretary Henry M. Teller, wrote a letter calling attention to the “great hindrance” of Indian customs to the progress of assimilation.

The letter opens:

I desire to call your attention to what I regard as a great hindrance to the civilization of the Indians, viz, the continuance of the old heathenish dances, such as the sun-dance, scalp-dance, & c. These dances, or feasts, as they are sometimes called, ought, in my judgment, to be discontinued, and if the Indians now supported by the Government are not willing to discontinue them, the agents should be instructed to compel such discontinuance.

The result of the letter was the Code of Indian Offenses of 1883, which outlined the procedure for suppressing “evil practices.” A Court of Indian Offenses was to be established at each Indian agency. The Court would serve as judges to punish offenders. Outlawed behavior included participation in traditional dances and feasts, polygamy, reciprocal gift giving and funeral practices, and intoxication or sale of liquor. Also prohibited were “medicine men” who “use any of the arts of the conjurer to prevent the Indians from abandoning their heathenish rites and customs.” Penalties included up to 90 days imprisonment and loss of government-provided rations for up to 30 days. Five Civilized Tribes were exempt from the Code which remained in effect until 1933.

Robert Clinton, a professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, writes the following about the Code of Indian Offenses:

… the penalty prescribed by the Code of Indian Offenses for practicing traditional and customary ways often involved the denial of rations. Thus, the federal government’s message to tribal Indians in the late nineteenth century was crystal clear — abandon your traditional culture and comply with the Code of Indian Offenses or starve. The Code of Indian Offenses therefore was not an early criminal code for Indian Reservations, as it is sometimes portrayed, but, rather, the clearest evidence of a deliberate federal policy of ethnocide — the deliberate extermination of another culture.

For more of Clinton’s blog, click here.

This Day in History: The Treaty of Prairie du Chien; Treaty Rights Test in Minnesota?; Federal Reserve Launches Center for Indian Country Development

On this day in history, August 19, 1825, the United States negotiated a peace treaty at Prairie du Chien between the Sioux, Chippewa, Sacs and Fox, and other tribes. Native nations were coming into increasing conflicts with each other as settlers moved west forcing tribes off of their traditional lands and into other tribal territories.

Article I of the Treaty states the goal:

There shall be a firm and perpetual peace between the Sioux and the Chippewas; between the Sioux and the confederated tribes of Sacs and Foxes; and between the Ioways and the Sioux.

The treaty attempted to set boundaries between tribes. It is not until Article 10 that the United States asserted itself:

All the tribes aforesaid acknowledge the general controlling power of the United States, and disclaim all dependence upon, and connection with, any other power.

The Treaties Matter website gives the following background to the treaty:

The U.S. was ostensibly concerned with violence among the American Indian nations on its western border, and insisted that living within set boundaries for the first time in history would solve the problem. American Indian delegation members pointed out that the game they hunted for their livelihoods did not recognize boundaries, and the arrangement would cause more problems than it solved. The treaty was a compromise: boundaries were set, but articles of the treaty acknowledged that American Indians would ignore the boundaries. …

The treaty gave the various tribes an opportunity to position themselves for access to trade goods. The long-term impact, however, was to make it easier for the U.S. government to acquire more land. According to Treaties Matter:

One affect of the treaty, however, was to “clear the title” to the lands of American Indians, making it easier to purchase specific tracts from single American Indian nations. Within 3 years, the U.S. was purchasing land within the boundaries set in 1825.

Chippewa in Northern Minnesota Announce Treaty Test, Draw Warning

Treaty rights are back in the news today. Minnesota Public Radio reports that a group of Chippewa in Northern Minnesota may test its rights under an 1855 treaty by harvesting wild rice without a state license. It already has drawn a warning from the state DNR.

The group is independent of the state’s tribal governments and includes members of the federally recognized Leech Lake, White Earth and Mille Lacs bands, and the non-recognized Sandy Lake Band, [group attorney Frank] Bibeau said. Its chairman is Arthur “Archie” LaRose, secretary-treasurer of the Leech Lake Band, who wrote to Dayton Aug. 7 to notify him of the harvest plans. …

[DNR Commissioner Tom] Landwehr said the state’s position continues to be that the bands have no special hunting, fishing or gathering rights off their reservations within the ceded territory — a position Bibeau disputes.

Click on the MPR link above for more details.

Minneapolis Fed Launches Center for Indian Country Development

On Monday, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis announced the creation of the Center for Indian Country Development, an effort to address the deep poverty in native communities. The opening paragraph in a Pioneer Press story on Center read: 

Only about 30 percent of 567 tribes in the United States have casinos and only about 20 percent of them are profitable enough to contribute a lot to their reservation residents, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. And many reservations are still rife with poverty. …

The Minneapolis Fed has been working with tribes for 25 years and said the Center is the next step. According to the media release, its mission is to help “self-governing American Indians communities to attain their economic development goals.” The Center will serve tribes in the Minneapolis Fed’s district, which covers Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, northwest Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 

The Minneapolis Fed established a Leadership Council for the Center. Members are:

  • Dante Desiderio, executive director, Native American Finance Officers Association
  • Sarah DeWees, senior director, Research, Policy and Asset-Building Programs, First Nations Development Institute
  • Miriam Jorgensen, director of research, Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy, University of Arizona, and Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, Harvard University
  • Elsie Meeks, board of directors, Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines; chairperson, Lakota Funds
  • Jacqueline Johnson Pata, executive director, National Congress of American Indians
  • John Phillips, executive director, First Americans Land-Grant Consortium; land grant program director, American Indian Higher Education Consortium
  • Jaime Pinkham, vice president, Native Nations Programs, Bush Foundation
  • Gerald Sherman, vice president, Bar K Management
  • Cris Stainbrook, president of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation
  • Sarah Vogel, Sarah Vogel Law

Minnesota Public Radio aired a 20-minute interview on the Center’s launch.

This Day in History: The Dakota-U.S. War Fighting Begins; A Native Take on Black Lives Matter

This day in history in 1862 is the one we remember as the day the Dakota-U.S. War began. That said, we should remember that the war on the Dakota began long before that. The Dakota people were forced into treaties that did not benefit them. Their hunting territories shrank. At the time the war started, the Dakota people were starving and money and provisions promised by treaty were not being delivered.

There are any number of resources available giving the background on the war, from the Winona Dakota Unity Alliance and the Minnesota Historical Society to Minnesota Public Radio.

A Native Take on Black Lives Matter

Gyasi Ross of the Blackfeet and Suquamish nations was on stage at the Bernie Sanders Rally in Seattle that got national media intention when two women from Black Lives Matter disrupted the event. Ross refers to it as his “Forrest Gump moment.” He ended up writing a piece for the online publication The Stranger: Guest Editorial: I Support Bernie Sanders for President and I Also Support the Black Lives Matter Takeover in Seattle

“I respect him. I will work for him. I like him,” Ross wrote about Sanders. “But he still benefits from white privilege and thus deserves to feel uncomfortable from time to time.” [Emphasis in the original.]

Pushing difficult conversation on race forward trumps the discomfort and decorum, Ross wrote. He gave the following analogy:

[W]hen I was about 25, my father and I had our first real “grown-up” conversation. He asked me when I planned to have kids. I told him, “I don’t know. I’m kinda waiting for the right time.” He told me that there was no “right time”—that having a kid is always going to be disruptive, jarring and inconvenient. He told me that if I waited “for the right time,” I would never have a child. Five years later, I had my son and although I was prepared financially for the most part, I found out that he was telling the truth.

White folks don’t ever want to talk about race. Ever. It will ALWAYS be jarring, it will ALWAYS be disruptive and it will ALWAYS be inconvenient. Yet, we have to do it. [Emphasis in the original.]

Click on the link above for the full editorial.

Indiana Capitol Art: A State Open to Change; and This Day in History: The Treaty of New York

We continue with our art tour of other state capitols to see what lessons Minnesota might learn as we reassess our controversial capitol art. (Information on capitol art in Minnesota and other states is collected on our Capitol Art page.) Continuing alphabetically, today we visit the Indiana State Capitol.

Indiana State Seal
Indiana State Seal
Minnesota State Seal, shown on State Flag
Minnesota State Seal

Let’s start with the State Seal of Indiana. It appears on all the brass door knobs in the capitol. It bears an striking resemblance to the Minnesota State Seal. Both show felled trees, clearing the way for agriculture, and a sun on the horizon. The Minnesota State Seal has a Dakota man riding into the sunset; the Indiana State Seal shows the departing native buffalo. According to Wikipedia’s description of the Indiana State Seal:  “The sun rising in the picture represents that Indiana has a bright future ahead and is just beginning. The mountains it rises over are a representation of the Allegheny Mountains showing that Indiana is in the west. The woodman represents civilization subduing the wilderness that was Indiana. The buffalo represents the wilderness fleeing westward away from the advancing civilization.”

Seal of the Northwest Territory
Seal of the Northwest Territory

Both the Indiana and Minnesota state seals seem to have origins in the Seal of the Northwest Territory. The Northwest Territory refers to a large area  northwest of the Ohio River, and Northwest of the original 13 colonies. It covered all of what would become the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and part of Minnesota. (When the British ruled the area, it was part of the Province of Quebec, according to Wikipedia. The British Royal Proclamation of 1763 had set the land aside for Native Americans. After the Revolutionary War, the British turned the land over to the United States in the Treaty of Paris.)

An article by Pamela Bennett provides the history of the Northwest Territory’s Seal. She quotes William Hayden English’s description of the seal from his 1896 book on the conquest of the Northwest Territory:

“The coiled snake in the foreground and the boats in the middle distance; the rising sun; the forest tree felled by the ax and cut into logs, succeeded by, apparently, an apple tree laden with fruit; the latin inscription ‘Meliorem lapsa locavit,’ all combine to forcibly express the idea that a wild and savage condition is to be superseded by a higher and better civilization. The wilderness and its dangerous denizens of reptiles, Indians and wild beasts, are to disappear before the ax and rifle of the ever- advancing western pioneer, with his fruits, his harvest, his boats, his commerce, and his restless and aggressive civilization.”

The motto: Meliorem lapsa locavit!’ is Latin for: “He has planted a better than the fallen.”

One of the most interesting aspects of the Indiana state capitol is that the Hoosiers have not felt compelled to keep it in its original 1888 condition. (Staff at the Minnesota Historical Society have said that it is in their DNA to do preservation. As part of the renovation, they are trying to keep the Minnesota State Capitol as close to its 1905 appearance as possible.) According to the Indiana state website, both the House and Senate chambers “have seen extensive renovation not in keeping with historic tradition.”

Perhaps the most striking element is the “Spirit of Indiana” mural in front of the House Chambers. Added in 1964, it’s 21 feet high and 41 feet wide. The state’s lengthier self-guided tour explains the symbolism:

In the middle is a woman representing statehood, wearing an empire gown typical of 1816. Pictured with her is William Henry Harrison. Just behind are a Sycamore tree, the Wabash River Valley and the Wabash and Erie Canal. To the right is the Goddess of Agriculture, Ceres. She is surrounded by industrialization. Ships in the background are carrying Indiana’s products to all parts of the world. Education is presented on the left. This figure is throwing cherished materialistic possessions into the sacrificial fire. The rising fumes form Pegasus, and Apollo is shown with his drawn bow sighting on the inspirational heights. Indiana’s eras of historic growth and progress are depicted in the cloud formations showing pioneers, settlers, soldiers and achievements of technology.

The House’s 18-foot-wide brass chandelier was installed in 1966, and is the largest chandelier in the capitol. The  last renovation of the Senate Chamber introduced a new carpet pattern with circles of 19 stars to symbolize Indiana as the 19th state in the Union. The capitol dome was given its first new copper cladding as a part of the building’s roof replacement in 1978.

The preservation pendulum did eventually swing back. In 1986, leaders decided to recreate parts of the capitol’s original appearance as a way to celebrate its centennial. The designs on the hallways and ceiling are back to the original style and color (after scraping off 13 coats of paint!). Still, a lot has changed.

It’s worth mentioning that the name “Indiana” means means Land of the Indians, according to statesymbolsusa: “Various American Indian tribes are a significant part of Indiana history, including the Miamis, Chippewa, Delawares, Erie, Shawnee, Iroquois, Kickapoo, Potawatomies, Mahican, Nanticoke, Huron, and Mohegan,” it says.

Here is a link to the state’s express virtual tour of the capitol; it shows no images of Indians, past or present. The lengthier 22-page self-guided tour (link above) makes a few mentions of Native Americans. Where they are mentioned, the guide offers a sanitized version of history and makes no mention of Native American’s positive contributions. Here are verbatim passages from the guide and a few comments:

Page 6: Governor Harrison persuaded native peoples to give up claims in the southern part of the territory, but many natives were resentful. The Shawnee Chief Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa (the Prophet) formed an alliance with other native tribes to oppose further encroachment on their lands. The alliance established a village near the confluence of Tippecanoe Creek and the Wabash River. In 1811 Harrison received permission to break up the alliance. While Tecumseh was away, Harrison marched against the village, camping one mile away. He requested a meeting with Prophet, but on November 7, 1811, Prophet attacked. He was thrown back, and the army marched on and burned the village.
Comment: The narrative is vague. There is no context for how Gov. Harrison “persuaded” native peoples to give up their land claims. Using the term “persuaded” implies the native peoples were convinced. Then saying that native peoples were “resentful” makes it sound like their claims were petty.
Page 7: At the time of statehood, Native Americans were officially recognized as the owners of most of central and northern Indiana, about two-thirds of the state. In 1818 the federal government purchased Native American lands in central Indiana to encourage settlement. The “New Purchase” was opened for settlement in 1820.
Comment: Saying that the federal government “purchased” the land implies it was a fair deal. It is a matter-of-fact statement with no discussion of terms.
Page 8: In late 1834 or early 1835 Frances Slocum, then in her late 60s, revealed her identity to a trader. Delaware Indians had kidnapped Slocum at age five from her home in Pennsylvania. She married a Miami chief (Shepoconah) and settled on Miami land just east of Peru. After her “discovery,” her family moved to Indiana to be near her. Her burial place, now known as Slocum Cemetery, is a State Historical Site. She was buried initially in the Miami way, as she requested. Later her body was exhumed and given a Christian burial. The Miami name she was given, Maconaqua, means, “little bear woman.”
Comment: The guide’s choice for a human interest story focuses on the injustice done to a white child kidnapped by the Indians. There is no story about the many traumas done to the Indians.
Page 9: In Indiana, the history of Native Americans as organized bodies ended in 1872, when the state’s few remaining Miami dissolved their tribal bonds.
Comment: This makes it sound like the Miami dissolved their tribe by choice. There is no context for why there were only a few Miami left, and the forces that led them to that decision. This item from 1872 is the last entry in the guide about Indians in the state named “The Land of Indians.”

Walk up to the Indiana capitol’s fourth floor and you will find the Indiana Chapel. Established in 1962 as a “meditation room,” it is the first such chapel installed in a U.S. state capitol. (Click on the link to see some of the stained glass art and furnishings, including a set of King James Bibles.)

Lastly, just like Minnesota, Indiana’s capitol grounds have a monument honoring Columbus. (Notice the kneeling Native American man carved into the pedestal.) Not surprisingly, there is no mention of Columbus’ role in Native American genocide. The self-guided tour sticks to the traditional discovery narrative, noting that the Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee Commission donated a plaque “to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the New World.”

This Day in History: The Treaty of New York

On August 7, 1790, leaders of the Creek Indians signed the Treaty of New York with the United States. According to Wikipedia, it was the first treaty between the United States and Native Americans not held in Indian controlled lands. (After earlier failed negotiations, President Washington invited Creek leaders to come to New York City, then the capital of the United States, to negotiate.)

The treaty promised “perpetual peace and friendship,” but also required Creek leaders to “acknowledge themselves, and the said parts of the Creek nation, to be under the protection of the United States of America, and of no other sovereign whosoever … ”

According to Wikipedia:

Creek leaders ceded a significant portion of their hunting grounds to the United States and agreed to turn runaway slaves over to federal authorities, although the Creek leaders averred that convincing the Creek people to honor the new boundary lines or return African American slaves would be difficult at best. …

Bribery was apparently involved, too. “In a secret side agreement to the treaty, [Creek leader Alexander] McGillivray received a commission as a brigadier in the U.S. Army and was granted permission to import goods through the Spanish port of Pensacola without paying American duties.”

This Day in History: President Clinton Reaffirms Federal Commitment to Indian Education, but Problems Remain

Seventeen years ago, on August 6, 1998, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 1309, stating:

The Federal Government has a special, historic responsibility for the education of American Indian and Alaska Native students. Improving educational achievement and academic progress for American Indian and Alaska Native students is vital to the national goal of preparing every student for responsible citizenship, continued learning, and productive employment. … In order to meet the six goals of this order, a comprehensive Federal response is needed to address the fragmentation of government services available to American Indian and Alaska Native students and the complexity of inter-governmental relationships affecting the education of those students. The purpose of the Federal activities described in this order is to develop a long-term, comprehensive Federal Indian education policy.”

In spite of this policy, Indian children continue to lag behind their white peers in education. MPR reported earlier this year that only 49 percent of the state’s Native American students graduate on time, the second worst in the nation, based on 2012-13 data. In 2014, the Star Tribune ran a four-part editorial series titled: “Separate and unequal: Indian schools, a nation’s neglect,” detailing how the federal government has failed to live up to its commitment to the education system run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

It should be noted that the Executive Order does not create a legal basis for any claims against the government for failing to live up to its promises. The Executive Order finishes with this disclaimer:

This order is intended only to improve the internal management of the executive branch and is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or equity by a party against the United States, its agencies or instrumentalities, its officers or employees, or any other person.

This Day in History: An Effort to Quell Dakota-Ojibwe Fighting

On this date in history, August 2, 1847, the Chippewa (Ojibwe) of the Mississippi and Lake Superior ceded land to the United States in an effort to create a buffer zone between them and the Dakota people with whom they were having increasing conflicts. The agreement was signed in Fond du Lac. The Pillager Band of Ojibwe would sign a similar agreement at Leech Lake later that month. In the big picture, the friction between the Dakota and Ojibwe was the result of increasing pressure on land and decreasing game in the area.

This particular land deal was a complicated one, and it didn’t work. The website Treaties Matter explains:

In 1847, Ojibwe-Dakota relations were more significant to American Indians in present-day Minnesota than were U.S.-Indian relations. In this treaty and a companion signed August 21, the Ojibwe ceded land to create a buffer zone that would separate them from the Dakota. The ceded tract, used jointly by the two tribes for hunting increasingly scarce game, was a place of frequent conflict. In a four-way deal, the U.S. purchased the land from the Ojibwe and ceded it to Ho-Chunk and Menominee people. This idea had been tried before in 1830 when the Ho-Chunk had acquired a buffer zone between the Dakota and Sac and Fox. It was a miserable failure. Based in part on this experience, the Menominee and Ho-Chunk peoples never moved to the land ceded in 1847, and eventually it was ceded by them back to the U.S.

This Day in History: U.S. Government Tries to Eliminate Reservations and Treaty Rights

On this day in history, Aug. 1, 1953, the United States Congress passed House Concurrent Resolution 108, expressing Congress’s intent to abolish Indian reservations and other benefits guaranteed in treaties. This was the beginning of the U.S. Termination Policy. According to Wikipedia:

The resolution [HCR 108] called for the immediate termination of the Flathead, Klamath, Menominee, Potawatomi, and Turtle Mountain Chippewa, as well as all tribes in the states of California, New York, Florida, and Texas. Termination of a tribe meant the immediate withdrawal of all federal aid, services, and protection, as well as the end of reservations. Individual members of terminated tribes were to become full United States citizens and receive the benefits and responsibilities of any other United States citizens. The resolution also called for the Interior Department to quickly find more tribes who appeared ready for termination in the near future.

The Termination Policy did not end until the late 1960s, during the Nixon presidency.

Also on this date in history, Aug. 1, 1758, the New Jersey Colonial Assembly created the first Indian reservation in North America. It was created in Burlington County as the permanent home of the Lenni-Lenape tribe.

According to the website for the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape people, their tribal name “literally means “Men of Men”, but is translated to mean “Original People.” Their Brotherton Reservation was the only Indian reservation ever created in New Jersey, and it ceased in 1802. According to their website:

The first treaty that was signed by the United States government, after its Declaration of Independence, was with the Lenni-Lenape (also called “Delawares”) in 1778 during the Revolutionary War. The revolutionary government promised that if the “Delawares” helped their fight against the British, they would be given statehood in the future… a promise that was not kept. Because of continuing conflict with European settlers encroaching upon Tribal lands, many of the Tribe’s members were killed or removed from their homelands. Some were able to continue to live in the homeland, however, they lived in constant fear. Those who remained survived through attempting to adapt to the dominant culture, becoming farmers and tradesmen.

Click on the link above to learn more about the Lenni-Lenape people.

Doctrine of Discovery Documentary to be Released Sept. 4; This Day in History: The Doty Treaty

“The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code,” the amazing result of a collaboration between filmmaker/Director Sheldon Wolfchild and Co-Producer Steven Newcomb, will be officially released Friday, Sept. 4 and available for purchase.

The Saint Paul Interfaith Network/Healing Minnesota Stories has partnered with Wolfchild to show the film in several Twin Cities venues during the past year, including Hamline University, Grace Lutheran Church/Apple Valley, Church of All Nations in Columbia Heights, Unity Unitarian in St. Paul, and Cherokee Park United in St. Paul. It has been very well received.

The film, based on Steven Newcomb’s book Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Domination Code (Fulcrum, 2008), focuses on the little known Doctrine of Discovery, the justification by which the church purported to give European monarchs a right to claim and assert a right of domination over “discovered” non-Christian lands to the west. The “right of discovery” granted by the church was later adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1823 in the case Johnson & Graham’s Lessee v. M’Intosh. The film discusses how the Doctrine of Discovery  remains the law of the land and its implications today.

The film features interviews with Newcomb and theologian Luis Rivera, author of A Violent Evangelism: The Religious and Political Conquest of the Americas (2008).

A trailer and more details are available on Wolfchild’s website 38 plus 2 Productions where you can pre-order a copy of the DVD.

This Day in History: The Doty Treaty, July 31, 1841

An 1841 treaty negotiated with the Dakota but never ratified by the U.S. Senate nearly created a permanent Indian Territory in what is now Minnesota. According to a summary on the website http://www.usdakotawar.org/timeline,

James Doty, the governor of Wisconsin Territory, fashions a treaty intended to provide a permanent home west of the Mississippi River for the Dakota, the Ho Chunk and other tribes. Tracts of land are to be set aside for each band on the west bank of the Mississippi; each tribe is to have a school, agent, blacksmith, gristmill and sawmill. The initial treaty is negotiated with the Sisseton, Wahpeton and Wahpekute bands; negotiations with the Mdewakanton collapse. The United States does not ratify the treaty.

According to the History of the Santee Sioux: United States Indian Policy on Trial, by Roy Willard Meyer, the Dakota agreed to the first of two treaties on July 31, 1841. The plan to create an Indian territory failed in large part due to opposition from expansionist U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri. “[I]t is evident that Benton’s real reason for opposing the treaty was that it would have locked up a valuable tract of country for the Indians instead of opening it to white settlement,” Meyer wrote.

This Day In History: A Landmark Case for Indian Gaming … and an Oxymoron

(OK, we’re a day late getting this one up … but still worth posting.)

This day in history, June 14, marks both a day of independence and dependence for Native Americans.

Let’s start with June 14, 1976, to remember a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case with Minnesota roots. In Bryan v. Itasca County, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state couldn’t tax property owned by a Native American on a reservation without Congressional permission.  As Wikipedia explains:

The case arose when a Minnesota county taxed an Indian’s mobile home  located on the reservation. The Court ruled that the state did not have the authority to impose such a tax or, more generally, to regulate behavior on the reservation.

The impact of this ruling went well beyond tax policy. It set the precedent that opened the door to Indian gaming on reservations.

Now move forward 15 years to June 14, 1991. President George Bush issued a statement reaffirming the government-to-government relationship between tribal governments and the U.S. federal government, using the nonsensical term “dependent sovereignty.”

The statement starts out like this:

On January 24, 1983, the Reagan-Bush Administration issued a statement on Indian Policy recognizing and reaffirming a government-to-government relationship between Indian tribes and the Federal Government. This relationship is the cornerstone of the Bush-Quayle Administration’s policy of fostering tribal self-government and self-determination.

And it ends like this:

Today we move forward toward a permanent relationship of understanding and trust, a relationship in which the tribes of the nations sit in positions of dependent sovereignty along with the other governments that compose the family that is America.

Synonyms for dependent are: subordinate and subservient.

Synonyms for sovereignty are: autonomy, independence, self government, and freedom.

So another turn of phrase for “dependent sovereignty” might be “subordinate freedom” or “subservient self government.”