Sunday, February 27, 2011

Playing the "POOR LITTLE INDIAN" in Jack Abramoff Scandal

Cedric Sunray, MOWA Choctaw has an opinion piece in Indian Country Today on the Abramoff Scandal and how many, college educated tribal leaders played the "poor little Indian" card. We've discussed the "poor little Indians" who scammed other Indians HERE and how some have begun a huge lobbying concern, IETAN CONSULTING.

The Abramoff slam fest continues with another article pushed out by the Associated Press and carried in last week’s Native American Times. This time Michael Scanlon is going down and once again the many male tribal leaders who got exactly what they paid for in the form of government contracts, the elimination of gaming competition from neighboring tribes, and real Washington D.C. access, are playing the “poor little Indian” role. It is becoming rather tired.

People like Abramoff and Scanlon couldn’t scam highly educated and powerful Indian Country leaders such as former and now deceased Mississippi Choctaw Chief Phillip Martin or Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma Chief Chad “Corntassel” Smith, as well as a host of others representing the Louisiana Coushatta and Saginaw Chippewa tribes, if they tried. What a ridiculous joke.        OP:  Recall Chad Smith gave us all a history lesson about how the Cherokee slaves were well treated.

I recall sitting in our living room in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, back in 2005 as C-Span broadcast hearings on the Abramoff scandal and guilty Indian leader after guilty Indian leader walked in with their heads down attempting to act as if they were not only the major partners in this immoral and unethical tirade, but also not the ones leading the charge. Senator John McCain, whose own personal life moral failings rival that of those who he was attempting to save face for during the hearings, was saying “all the right things” to place blame on the omnipresent white man caricature.

My direct phone calls to people like Abramoff’s right hand Kevin Ring told a very different tale as each attempted to pass the buck over to the next. The words I heard from those tribes who were overrun by Abramoff’s tribal “clients”, such as the Alabama-Coushatta in Texas whose council invited me down to speak on these issues, certainly rang much different then the company line concocted by those “clients” such as the Coushatta in Louisiana who had no problem deep-sixing the economy of their own cousins across the state line in Texas. Perpetrator as victim has become the cliché of the new millennium.        OP:  We saw the same thing with the Pechanga disenrollments of two families.   Chairman Macarro acted as if it were an affront to the tribe when he was asked questions.  It's NO BUSINESS of the white man said the guy who's great-great grandmother was the Indian.

But it didn’t matter; the Indians had found their hero in the face of the war hero. It was so very touching, but unfortunately the record shows clearly that this façade was indeed just that. These Chiefs and their cohorts, a word used liberally in current media to denounce the “evil” lobbyist’s behavior towards the “unsuspecting primitive and of course childlike Indians”, traded money to fuel their political campaigns, as well as other perks for accepting one another’s patronage.

These Chiefs who have made careers out of selling and parading their theoretical sovereignty and now have put back real sovereignty decades for their cowardly and blatantly false denials of their involvement. They mask themselves in “trail of broken treaties” romantic, played-out rhetoric and attempt to galvanize an unsuspecting Indian Country to their cult of personalities. They control the jobs, funds, and media within their communities, which by the way have been in part added to by the likes of Abramoff, Tom DeLay, and Scanlon, while truly impoverished and struggling tribal communities have been literally excommunicated from the coffers of the D.C. Beltway money trough.

Yes, Phillip Martin hired Team Abramoff to eliminate supposed area gaming competition and to land his tribe a multi-million dollar correctional facility, amongst other things. OP:  Is that the true "INDIAN WAY?" Yes, Chad Smith accepted financial “assistance” from Abramoff and his tribe purchased their favor through hiring his firm. Yes, the Saginaw Chippewa and Louisiana Coushatta leadership did the same in order to, you guessed it, do the same. And yes, this was done without the knowledge of most of their tribal membership. Of course it goes even deeper than this, but who has time to rehash the old song and dance.
It sounds better to blame a bunch of rich white guys in D.C., who in all honesty truly were a bunch of conniving, plotting con men, while highlighting some obscure racist email they threw out about their Indian clients, then to accept the fact that tribal leaders equipped with law degrees, business savvy, and flush with newly found gaming cash were the real puppeteers behind the golden curtain.

But what more can we expect in a decade and a half where over forty tribes have disenrolled their own people, Jim Crow has risen again in Eastern Oklahoma, and an Indian woman named Elouise Cobell, who has spent a great deal of her life in the pursuit of justice for Indian people, is now being questioned as to her intentions.  Heck, Team Abramoff is fast becoming old news as we wait impatiently to devour the next available carcass of mass consumption and accompanying self-gratification; a devouring which primarily takes place in various forms of social media in the form of “screen names” and other false, easy, and safe words … hidden behind golden curtains.

Cedric Sunray is an enrolled member of the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians and project coordinator for the Haskell Endangered Legacy Project (H.E.L.P.) He can be reached at

Find our more on tribal corruption at    Tribal Corruption and AIRRO
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